Autumn at Burnt Mountain in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.
Burnt Mountain Autumn at Burnt Mountain in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. © Heather Furman/The Nature Conservancy

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The Nature Conservancy Announces Winners of First U.S. Natural Climate Solutions Accelerator Competition

Competition focuses on developing innovative natural solutions to climate change.

Washington, DC

The Nature Conservancy announced today the inaugural awards from the new U.S. Natural Climate Solutions Accelerator program focused on using nature to reverse carbon pollution in the United States. In this pilot round of the program, a combined $850,000 will be awarded to five winners, with the funding generously provided by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

The Accelerator is a joint program with support from partner organizations American Forest Foundation (AFF), and American Forests (AF) as well as representatives from the United States Forest Service (USFS) and Duke University, who helped review and evaluate the proposals. The selected finalists reflect a diversity of restoration practices and landowner types across the U.S., the ability to develop innovative approaches that attract investment, and the catalytic potential to grow the projects into larger efforts.

A new study on the potential of Natural Climate Solutions in the United States — such as planting more trees to absorb more carbon, or using cover crops to keep carbon locked in soil—would be able to remove a fifth of U.S. carbon pollution, greater than the carbon emissions from all U.S. cars and trucks on the road.  This could be achieved while also increasing tree cover, providing great water security, improving soil health, increasing wildlife habitat, buffer flood zones, and providing potential income for private landowners. This groundbreaking study was also supported with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Each of the winning projects aims to catalyze new approaches to restore degraded lands and waters that will deliver tangible, large-scale climate solutions as well as providing benefits to people, water, and wildlife.  In addition to financial support ($75K-$250K) to help develop and scale-up projects, recipients will be offered technical assistance, training and mentorship, and connection to networks and new partnerships.  

“We were truly impressed by dozens of inquiries that came in for the RFP,” said Cathy Macdonald, Director, Natural Climate Solutions for the Nature Conservancy in North America. “Today’s five winners are demonstrating first-hand the great progress that can be made when natural solutions are put to work addressing problems that affect people and nature.”

The five winners announced today are:

  • Vermont Land TrustVermont Forest Carbon Phase Two program intends to prove the value of aggregation of forest carbon markets. Learn more here.
  • TreeFolksTravis County Floodplain Reforestation Program supports riverbank reforestation in Austin with replication and scaling up potential across urban areas. Learn more here.
  • Coalitions & Collaboratives, Inc. – working with RenewWest on their project, Forests of the Future: Replanting Burn Scars for Carbon Sequestration and Ecosystem Services, plans to unlock post fire restoration by making it attractive for private investment. Learn more here.
  • American Forest Foundation and The Nature ConservancyThe Family Forest Carbon Initiative aims to mobilize the value of forest carbon for smaller land owners to unlock major NCS benefits. Learn more here.
  • The Nature Conservancy in WashingtonCentral Cascades Forest Products: Catalyzing a Landscape-scale Climate Solution for the U.S. Interior West program aims to reduce the risk of fire, creating resilience prior to catastrophic loss, and mobilizing restoration at scale on federal lands. Learn more here.

“These first-round winners reflect a diverse portfolio of approaches to creating scalable, replicable natural climate solutions,” said Mark Wishnie, Director of Forestry and Wood Products at the Nature Conservancy. “We’re thrilled with the strong response we received to the Accelerator’s first call for proposals, and we’re all eager to see the results of these compelling ideas put in to action.”

Applicants’ submissions ranged from early-stage or proof-of-concept projects to later-stage projects. The term for this first round of U.S. Natural Climate Solutions Accelerator grants will be 18 months. During this time, grantees will be expected to complete projects, achieve proof-of-concept or accomplish other proposed tasks that will allow for project evaluation, including potential to broaden the success of the approach, ability to quantify climate change benefits, and the ability to demonstrate the path forward for investors, businesses, nonprofits and/or policymakers to aid in bringing the project concept to transformative scale.

Providing important input on the program and feedback on applications, the Accelerator’s Selection Committee is actively engaged in building a community of practice around Natural Climate Solutions. “We are extremely proud to support this work,” said Selection Committee member, Jad Daley, CEO of American Forests. “Having provided guidance on related programs and research over the years, we are excited to build on our engagement with the winners of the first US Natural Climate Solutions Accelerator competition. We look forward to supporting the winners to refine and scale their innovative conservation work.”

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.