March 15, 2016
Our planet is a superorganism, composed of an intricate network of biogeochemical processes. Each component of these processes plays an irreplaceable role in making this planet home. The terrestrial biosphere (which includes the soil) absorbs carbon, and the oceans take part in the greatest exchange of actively cycled carbon in the world. Any disruption in this rhythmic process can have severe consequences for the organisms that benefit from these life sustaining procedures.
Climate change is the direct result of the disruption of this rhythmic process. One contributing factor to the change in the carbon cycle has been humans’ transition to the use of machines. Fossil fuels transfer carbon into the atmosphere, where carbon is then exchanged with the oceanic biosphere. The unprecedented increase in carbon results in ocean acidification. Modifications to the terrestrial biosphere have hindered the ecosystems’ ability to extract carbon. Deforestation and the conversion of landscapes have resulted in the loss of biodiversity; air pollution has damaged plants and soils; sprawling urban environments have little ability to absorb and store carbon. All of these modifications have stressed the environment. One solution to combating these stressors is to protect the landscapes that allow us to live comfortable lives.
Land protection and stewardship is the ethical planning and managing of natural resources. Stewardship puts the responsibility of the environment back on the shoulders of those who benefit from it the most; at its best, it is a synonym for conservation. One way that land stewardships have become prominent is through the establishment of land trusts. A land trust is a non-profit organization that has made its mission to protect and conserve lands for the betterment of society and the environment. Land trusts conserve all types of land, from farm and ranch land, to foothills and mountains, to grasslands and prairies, and everything in between.
The two main strategies employed to protect the land include either the purchase of the land by the land trust, or the purchase of a conservation easement. In the case of a conservation easement, the land remains in private hands, but the easement limits the use of the land so it cannot be developed, mined, or logged. Each easement is unique with the land owner and the land trust agreeing on the terms within the easement. Land trusts are a fundamental facet of conservation; they save crucial habitats, which benefit many species, and help restore the suffering biogeochemical processes.
Placer Land Trust is an integral non-profit saving natural and agricultural lands in Placer County. They currently steward about 30 preserves scattered throughout the Placer County foothills and valley floor, and in addition to maintaining these pristine lands, they build trails and host hikes so community members can see, first-hand, the benefit of stewardship. Saving natural land is one key to combating climate change and with the continued efforts from land trusts, we might actually be able to save our home.
By Guest Blogger: Alyssa Harmon