Scenic Hudson Land Trust: Prioritizing Lands in Light of Sea Level Rise
Scenic Hudson, a land trust based in New York, is conserving properties along the Hudson River to buffer against future sea level rise impacts, engaging with the public through education and outreach projects to encourage low-carbon development, and engaging with policymakers to update coastal management regulations in anticipation of more frequent and more intense flood events and sea level rise. To target and prioritize land acquisitions, the land trust used GIS to integrate criterion based upon scenic value, biological or ecological significance, and vulnerability to sea level rise. Essential to their efforts have been partnerships and collaboration with state and local governments and other NGOs; communication with partners has enhanced organizational capacity, avoided project redundancy, and aligned regional efforts.
Scenic Hudson initially became interested in climate change when staff began looking into carbon sequestration and other carbon-based markets as an additional income source for their land holdings. After completing an analysis, it was determined that the land trust is not large enough and does not have the proper vegetation cover to act as a marketable carbon sequestration site.
As climate change became a more prominent issue at the land trust, the land trust’s board became energized by the number of climate-related initiatives in the state of New York in which the land trust could participate. In particular, the Nature Conservancy launched “Rising Waters,” a stakeholder participation process throughout the entire Hudson River Valley to assess the community’s vulnerability to sea level rise; there also were multiple state level sea level rise task forces with which the land trust engaged.
In addition, communities within Hudson Valley began to participate in the Climate Smart Communities program led by the New York Department of the Environment. To date, 12-14 groups within the Hudson River Valley watershed have signed up for the program. Climate Smart Communities is a voluntary program that guides communities through a 10 step program to create a community-based climate change plan and audit process.
Climate change has become a central issue for Scenic Hudson. Staff focus their outreach and education efforts around engaging constituents during climate change-related talks throughout the region. They use a mapping process with various layers to target land acquisitions according to scenic value, biological or ecological importance, and, most recently, sea level rise. The land trust is seeking to preserve lands that provide habitat connectivity and areas without infrastructure/hardened shorelines that may reduce contiguity and resilience.
Thus far, one of their biggest challenges is due to the fact that there is a lack of high resolution LIDAR data for the entire area. Various agencies have surveyed the area at different times, but no one has done a comprehensive, high resolution elevation survey. Thus, the land trust’s models and GIS maps are based upon cobbled together data with relatively crude elevation estimates. A high resolution topographic map of the area would help the land trust target and preserve lands that are not vulnerable to sea level rise or that provide sources of landscape resilience.
Outcomes and Conclusions
Scenic Hudson is actively incorporating multiple climate change considerations into all aspects of the organization’s activities. They are conserving properties along the Hudson River to buffer future sea level rise impacts, engaging with the public through education and outreach projects to encourage low-carbon development patterns, and engaging with policymakers to update coastal management regulations in anticipation of more frequent flooding and sea level rise.
One thing that has been essential to their success has been partnerships with local and state governments and other NGOs. Communication with partners has reduced project redundancy and has increased funding coordination. The Hudson Valley has the added benefit of having some world class research institutes nearby that have acted as local sources of information and knowledge. Scenic Hudson would like to have access to high resolution LIDAR data for the region, a sediment transport model of the river, and a high resolution bathymetric map of the river and corresponding bay.
Feifel, K. (2010). Scenic Hudson Land Trust: Prioritizing Lands in Light of Sea Level Rise [Case study on a project of the Scenic Hudson]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: http://www.cakex.org/case-studies/scenic-hudson-land-trust-prioritizing-... (Last updated April 2010)