By Keith Ridler

Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho — A conservation group has created maps identifying key landscapes in three Western states most likely to sustain native species amid climate change and is distributing money to protect private lands in those areas through use-limiting easements or outright purchases.

The Nature Conservancy says it has $6 million from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation that it’s now distributing among land trusts that must come up with five times the amount in matching funds for approved easements or acquisitions.

“We’re protecting lands in the three states that are identified as being resilient,” said Ken Popper, senior conservation planner with The Nature Conservancy. “In the short term, we’re looking at wildlife movements and in the long term movements of habitats. Certainly, the species present will change in the future, and habitat could even shift from forestland to grassland.”

The maps and associated information, called the Terrestrial Resilience and Regional Connectivity reports and maps, cover some 355,000 square miles in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and parts of Montana, Nevada, California and Utah.

Popper said the information is the result of dozens of data sets that include soil maps, vegetation maps, species distribution, moisture, elevation and the locations of roads, powerlines, cities and towns. He said the maps, available to the public, took four years to create at a cost of $350,000.

The idea behind the project is for local land trusts to use the information to identify private lands that could be strongholds for species threatened by climate change.