Ecotrust is working systemically to turn the tide on climate change.
The only way to draw greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere is through land use. Preserving intact ecosystems and restoring health and vitality to degraded environments does more than protect the plants and animals that call these places home: It enhances the ability of ecosystems to sequester carbon. Long-term, this will help recalibrate the atmospheric balance of gases and stabilize our fast-changing climate. What’s more, if our efforts to restore the landscape are centered around populations that are most vulnerable to those environmental impacts, we can achieve a more resilient future for both people and place.
At Ecotrust, our work in the forests, watersheds, and farmlands of the region not only helps landscapes weather the consequences of global warming: it increases their capacity to be part of its solution.
Wildfire, drought, and rising stream temperatures are all forest-related climate change issues in the Pacific Northwest. Managing forests within the context of a warming planet brings us an opportunity to look at the value of our forests for more than their trees. In-tact forest ecosystems sequester carbon both in standing trees, but also in the forest floor. As annual snowfall patterns become more erratic and uncertain, forests act as a form of insurance, shading snowpack so it remains cooler, longer and protecting and cleaning vital waterways.
At Ecotrust, we think both land owners large and small can be a part of the solution:
We built Forest Planner to help small landowners meet the challenge of managing forestlands for their many benefits, such as wildlife habitat, carbon storage, ecosystem services (including clean water), and timber products.
In a climate-responsive future, we think ecological forestry executed by private management companies will both ensure forests are valued for their many benefits and provide significant economic return to the region. Ecotrust Forest Management is a forestland investment management and advisory services company that manages land on behalf of investors and forestland owners to enhance forest health and productivity and to produce a diverse array of forest products and services.
In the face of resource scarcity and growing global demand, we need a new regional model for our food system capable of building community resilience. Our research has revealed that, here at home, no-till small-grain production provides ecological benefits – such as soil organic carbon sequestration and enhancing soil nutrient content – and, in addition, holds economic promise. By learning more about how we can support ag-of-the-middle operations in the Pacific Northwest, we continue to advance solutions that strengthen the resilience of local economies and the systems on which they depend.
On the buyer-side of the spectrum, we are working with large-scale institutions like schools, hospitals, and corporate cafeterias to localize their purchasing power in support of regional farmers, ranchers, and fishermen who are utilizing regenerative and sustainable production and harvest methods. As the convener of the Northwest Food Buyers Alliance, we are beginning to understand the needs of the buyers who need wholesale volume and appreciate local values and connect them with producers who are interested in scaling to meet this demand.
Rising stream temperatures will likely reduce the quality and extent of freshwater salmon habitat. Studies suggest that one third of the current habitat for either the endangered or threatened Northwest salmon species will no longer be suitable for them by the end of this century as key temperature thresholds are exceeded. The imperiled salmon also puts at risk both the fisheries and the ecosystems that depend alike on this keystone species. In response to the threats climate change poses to fish in the region, we work to strengthen the conservation of regional marine and freshwater ecosystems, recognize and improve community stewardship, support the livelihoods of fishermen, grow collaborative businesses, create financing mechanisms for community-based fisheries, and evolve fisheries management policies.
With Ecotrust as the hub since 2005, five state and federal agencies partnered to pool their funding, agree on priority areas, and grant more than $10 million to community organizations working to restore the watersheds in their backyards. When the Whole Watershed Restoration Initiative (WWRI) launched, it was a pioneering example of interagency collaboration: Thanks to the cooperation of the USDA Forest Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Bureau of Land Management, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Ecotrust, more than 160 projects have been funded, bringing an estimated additional $1 million a year over the course of 10 years to salmon recovery efforts in the region. In an age of climate change, when both record droughts and fire seasons are becoming the status quo, continued investments in whole watershed restoration will be key to ensuring that people and fish continue to thrive in our bioregion.
The Community Fisheries Network is a nationwide network convened by Ecotrust and the Island Institute that is helping community fishing organizations shape sustainable businesses, while leading fisheries and marine ecosystem protection and building lasting economic value for coastal communities. Our work in the Community Fisheries Network supports a longtime dream of local fishermen: locally owned and operated working waterfronts where they can sell directly to their community — making real connections and keeping more of the profit in their own pockets. It also gives local people access to sustainable seafood and the opportunity to meet their fishermen.
Building a new economy
The dominant economic model in our nation relies on industrial modes of production and consumption that places profit over people and planet, disregarding the interdependence of communities, economies, and nature. The social and environmental impacts of this model are most acutely felt by frontline communities, people of color and low-income living in neighborhoods with inadequate infrastructure and/or proximate to pollution sources. However, climate change will touch every community.
As climate patterns change across the world in response to rising temperatures, governments and businesses are beginning to research and plan how best to adapt to new, unpredictable weather paradigms, and undo the damaging effects of the industrial economy. At Ecotrust, we have worked to restore and strengthen the connections between these systems, with the goal of building a just and regenerative economy.
Mapping a changing world
To turn the tide on climate change, we need to a better understanding of the risks and opportunities posed by climate change. We have developed a suite of mapping and data visualization tools that capture key drivers in those systems we all rely on — from food and forests, to water and the built environment. These tools help planners and decision makers better understand how these systems change under the pressure of climate change.
Creating jobs and building equity in the urban forest
How we create jobs in pipeline industries, while protecting the climate.