Two girls in a rowboat in a flooded Maryland town.
High Tide Flooding Two residents of Somerset County, Maryland make their way across high tide floodwaters © Jay Fleming

Stories in Maryland/DC

New SEAFARE Report Aims to Improve Access to Climate Adaptation Funding for many Maryland Communities

The report and guidance were developed in partnership with community members, agency staffers and adaptation practitioners.

Media Contacts

A new report from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) seeks to highlight the barriers that many communities on the frontlines of climate change face when trying to access the funding they need to address climate impacts and better prepare for the future. The Supporting Equitable Access to Funding for Adaptation Resources storymap and report—or SEAFARE—is the result of a series of workshops conducted by the Maryland and DC chapter of TNC with climate adaptation practitioners, environmental justice leaders, non-profit partners, residents of coastal Maryland and state and federal officials to identify those barriers and create a toolkit with recommendations for decision-makers on ways to improve funding systems. 

Maryland is experiencing one of the highest rates of sea-level rise in the country but the most heavily impacted coastal communities in Maryland have not received climate adaptation and flood mitigation funding at the scale required to effectively improve resilience along its more than 7,700 miles of shoreline. Sea-level rise and other impacts of climate change disproportionately impact coastal communities—especially communities that have been historically underserved and overburdened—which are frequently also communities of color. These communities have the greatest hurdles to overcome to access climate adaptation funding.

“When we look to­wards building resilience to climate change impacts across all geographies, the solutions must start with equity as the guiding principle,” said Humna Sharif, Climate Adaptation Manager with The Nature Conservancy. “Coastal communities experiencing the first impacts of climate change deserve to define their own futures. The SEAFARE effort lays out a framework to help decision-makers understand how they can support a vision for community-led climate resilience informed by those communities’ lived experiences.”

Some of the built-in barriers communities face to getting funding and assistance include complicated legislative frameworks, complex and alienating solicitation language and restrictive funding criteria. These aspects of federal and state funding systems result in climate adaptation programs that perpetuate and even exacerbate inequities. While environmental justice and equity are frequently acknowledged as being important considerations for grant programs, they are inconsistently and inadequately used to guide the equitable allocation of resources.

The SEAFARE project was developed to identify these systemic inequities and offer guidance on how they can be fixed in partnership with both affected communities and the agencies administering funding. It also comes at a critical time, as the U.S. Federal Government has made it a goal that 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities through the Justice40 Initiative

Throughout 2023, the SEAFARE Advisory Committee members met and discussed the many barriers across the funding pipeline that coastal communities in Maryland face. Through these meetings, a toolkit was developed with guidance for decision makers on how to center equity in funding decisions. While this project was convened with a focus on Maryland, the guidance created is widely applicable to decision-makers across the country.

“Everyone talks about including impacted communities when planning for resilience building, but people have different interpretations of what “working with communities” means,” said Astrid Caldas, Senior Climate Scientist for Community Resilience in the Union of Concerned Scientists and also member of the Deal Island Peninsula Partnership’s Coordination Committee. “The SEAFARE Toolkit comes to the rescue, not only breaking down what it actually should look like, but giving actionable steps and example paths to equitable, fair and just funding processes.”

“This report can serve as a rubric for agencies to work with communities,” said Thom Stroschein, a resident of Deal Island resident and member of the Deal Island Peninsula Partnership’s Coordination Committee. “Understanding when and how to communicate and interact with stakeholders will improve a project’s success. This report serves as a roadmap for effective collaboration.”

The recommendations focus on five key themes: “Start with Building Relationships of Trust,” “Embrace a Shared Environmental Justice Vision,” “Align Effective Funding Strategies & Plans to the Vision,” “Execute in Ways that Serve [communities],” and “Grow, Learn & Adapt.”  The full list and breakdown can be found in the report.  

In addition to the work of the advisory committee, facilitating partners included Collective 180, with additional content developed in collaboration with George Washington University. 

The SEAFARE project’s toolkit for policymakers was finalized in March 2024 and the recommendations are now being shared with partners and legislators.  Parallel to the SEAFARE work, the Maryland/DC chapter has also been convening another advisory committee to create a community-informed and led climate adaptation policy vision for a resilient Maryland called the Community Outreach and Engagement Forums (COEF.)

The storymap of the report can be found here, and the full report can be downloaded here. An additional report factsheet can be accessed here.