(L to R) American Forests’ president and CEO, Jad Daley, and vice president & chief of staff, general counsel, Rebecca Turner, with Sacha Spector, program director for the environment at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, at American Forests’ 2018 Learning Lab. Credit: Jay Alexander.

THE DORIS DUKE Charitable Foundation (DDCF) has become a catalyst among philanthropies for the growing movement to promote “natural climate solutions,” which entails conserving and restoring ecosystems, including forests, wetlands and other lands to provide a natural carbon sink. DDCF’s commitment to address climate change has become a critical strategy to advance its longstanding mission to conserve wildlife habitat and other natural assets, given the spreading impacts of climate change on lands and waters worldwide. In natural climate solutions, the foundation recognizes an opportunity to demonstrate that society can effectively reduce its emissions while benefiting nature.

DDCF’s broadened focus on climate change aligns closely with American Forests’ own embrace of the climate challenge, sparked by our organization’s recognition of already visible climate change impacts on forests and the huge role that forests can play in solving climate change. DDCF’s support is touching virtually every aspect of American Forests’ Climate Leadership Strategy, a transformational investment in our organization’s leadership capacity on natural climate solutions. American Forests is just one organization being empowered in this way by DDCF’s work on natural climate solutions, just one example of the foundation’s catalytic leadership for this work nationwide.

Our shared interest first came together through DDCF support that enabled American Forests to host an unprecedented climate change “Learning Lab” in the summer of 2018. The Learning Lab brought together delegations of officials from the 17 states in the U.S. Climate Alliance (now up to 23 states) to develop customized strategies for each state to use forests and other lands as a climate solution. American Forests assembled more than 60 experts in science, policy and finance to coach the state teams through a series of exercises and presentations of their findings. The results have been remarkable — many of these states have already drafted new policies and aligned financial resources to advance reforestation and other natural climate solutions.

This work with the Alliance continues with renewed support from DDCF via a new grant awarded in February of 2019 that will enable American Forests to convene additional natural climate solutions Learning Labs. American Forests also has new support from DDCF to match this work on state policy with equal efforts aimed at federal policy, including the opportunity to align the funding and activities of the U.S. Forest Service with natural climate solutions.

American Forests also has support from DDCF to lead natural climate solutions by example. American Forests was recently awarded a grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Climate Adaptation Fund, supported by DDCF, to develop new climate-informed techniques for our replanting of Tamaulipan thornscrub forests in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. DDCF is also supporting American Forests’ work on urban forests, funding a comprehensive national leadership initiative to provide urban forest practitioners with new tools to reduce energy use and protect public health in our rapidly heating cities. DDCF’s support will also facilitate statewide demonstration of this climate and health-informed approach to urban forestry in partner- ship with the State of Rhode Island.

We are very grateful for this powerful new relationship!