Adding the Impacts of Climate Change to a Strategic Plan: Big Sur Land Trust

Kirsten Feifel
Posted on: 12/19/2010 - Updated on: 11/17/2021

Posted by

Kirsten Feifel

Project Summary

The Big Sur Land Trust has incorporated the potential effects of climate change into its program management and long-term strategic conservation planning. Specifically, the Big Sur Land Trust staff is considering changes in fire regimes and stream flow, and impacts to restoration projects. Currently, the Big Sur Land Trust conserves over 40,000 acres of land.  


The Big Sur Land Trust was founded in 1978 and has conserved over 40,000 acres of land across the diverse habitats of Monterey County on the Central Coast of California. With a staff size of 19, the Big Sur Land Trust works with private and public partners to conserve parcels of land. With its community partners, the Big Sur Land Trust targets natural systems that secure wildlife and wildlife corridors and safeguard against flood, fire, and the potential effects of climate change.


The Big Sur Land Trust began incorporating climate change impacts into its practices in 2007. Motivated by ongoing scientific research on climate changes and impacts in California, the land trust began to incorporate climate change informally during planning and staff meetings. The land trust addresses climate change in a programmatic way in relation to management of their fee lands and in planning and implementation of restoration on their properties and in projects with other partners especially regarding invasive species, wetlands, and riparian habitats. Additionally, a number of Big Sur Land Trust projects have the potential to provide carbon sequestration benefits.

For one restoration project, the Big Sur Land Trust modeled and analyzed the impacts sea level rise would have on their restoration design plan. Their restoration plan for the Lower Carmel River Floodplain includes the removal of small levees and restoration of historic floodplain and riparian and wetland habitat to enhance stream flow and the stream’s biological capacity. They are also including more corridors and connectivity analysis for movement of both habitats and species. This initiative developed into the Carmel River Floodplain Restoration and Environmental Enhancement project (Carmel River FREE). The Big Sur Land Trust is co-sponsor of Carmel River FREE with the Monterey County Resource Management Agency. The Final Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment for Carmel River FREE was certified by the County Board of Supervisors in January 2020. Project construction for Carmel River FREE is scheduled to begin as soon as Spring 2022.

Finally, Big Sur Land Trust worked at the state level to ensure climate adaptation was adequately addressed in the updated State Wildlife Action Plan (i.e., by participating on a statewide adaptation committee for the plan update).

Outcomes and Conclusions

Adapting lands to climate change will be a lifelong commitment; the Big Sur Land Trust is striving to incorporate the effects of climate change into all of its programs in order to be better prepared for an uncertain future.

Carmel River Floodplain Restoration and Environmental Enhancement Project (Carmel River FREE)
California State Wildlife Action Plan 


Feifel, K. (2021). Adding the Impacts of Climate Change to a Strategic Plan: Big Sur Land Trust [Case study on a project of the Big Sur Land Trust]. Version 2.0. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: (Last updated May 2021)

Project Contacts

Affiliated Organizations

For 30 years, the Big Sur Land Trust has worked passionately to protect the natural, recreational, and scenic values of Monterey County. Their mission is to conserve the significant lands and waters of California’s Central Coast for all generations. Working with private and public partners, The Big Sur Land Trust has successfully conserved more than 30,000 acres of shoreline, wildlife habitat, streams, forests, grasslands, rangelands and riparian corridors.

Related Resources

Adaptation Phase
Sharing Lessons
Sector Addressed
Climate Justice
Conservation / Restoration
Culture / Communities
Disaster Risk Management
Education / Outreach
Land Use Planning
Rural / Indigenous Livelihoods
Transportation / Infrastructure
Water Resources
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