Open Space Helps Address Climate Change


Along the shores of Lake Michigan about 25 miles north of Chicago in Ft. Sheridan, Illinois is a former U.S. Navy Base that has three ravines, a bluff and one mile of Lake Michigan Shoreline.  The Ft. Sheridan site has been closed to the public for the past 100 years.  Now, there is free public access that is fully accessible under the new ownership and stewardship of Openlands.  Openlands is a regional land conservation organization that works to protect land and water around the crescent of Lake Michigan, from Wisconsin to Indiana.  The Openlands Lakeshore Preserve (Preserve) is a beautiful example of best practices for land restoration and conservation.

Over the past 50 years, Openlands has worked to protect more than 55,000 acres of land that function as carbon sinks to help address climate change.  The term carbon sink refers to the fact that forest, trees, plants and soil all absorb greenhouse gas emissions which cause climate change.  The function of carbon sinks is so important that USEPA keeps a national inventory of large parcels of open lands, forests, farmlands, and trees in urban area, which in aggregate, offset 15.3 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2009.

Larger open spaces such as the Preserve play an additional key role is adapting to climate change because these places will never be developed.  They are protected forever and provide that value for living species, especially birds, in terms of helping to both mitigate and adapt to climate change.  For example, the Preserve now serves as a corridor for bird species migration.  As birds are adjusting to expected temperature fluctuations, the Preserve will provide a place for them to rest and refuel during migration.  As explained by Lenore Beyer-Clow in the video, we don’t really know how temperatures will shift, but protecting the migration corridors helps.  Living species need to be able to move in changing climate conditions and connecting corridors is expected to make a significant difference.

The Illinois Environmental Council (IEC) serves as the eyes, ears, and voice of the environmental community in Springfield.   It will continue to promote sustainable environmental and energy policies in Illinois.  Get news on environmental issues and legislation.  Visit our website.  Sign up for our E-news.  Follow us on Twitter.  Like us on Facebook.

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