The name is a bit of a mouthful (Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium), but the acronym was surprisingly apt (BAECCC, pronounced “bake”) for an organization dedicated to confronting the challenges—such as rising temperatures and sea levels—of climate change and their impacts on the Bay Area’s natural habitats, watersheds, and shorelines.
BAECCC was founded in the spring of 2009 as a collaborative effort of four public resource agencies (California State Coastal Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, U.S. Geological Survey) and the nonprofit Point Blue Conservation Science. The idea, Point Blue CEO Ellie Cohen says, was to “work across boundaries to come up with viable climate-smart solutions and to incorporate ‘natural infrastructure’ into the region’s response to climate change.”
By the mid-2000s, Cohen says, scientists were coming to a better understanding of the local impacts of climate change, but weren’t addressing the day-to-day realities that natural resource managers deal with on the ground. BAECCC filled the need to “break down the barriers between scientists and natural resource managers, who shared objectives but operated in different worlds,” Cohen says, and eventually expanded to include the active participation of some 30 organizations and institutions. However, at the end of 2017 BAECCC’s funding ran out and it transitioned from a staffed organization to a listserv and website (baeccc.org). It leaves behind a legacy of successful collaborations, but its closing is a potential setback for regionwide action on climate change.
Looking around the United States this type of regionally-coordinated, multi-disciplinary, nature-based response to climate change appears to have been unique. Through BAECCC’s quarterly meetings and occasional workshops, scientists, managers and policy makers from around the region gathered to share their research and proposals for a “climate smart” Bay Area – asking questions like:
- What will rising sea levels and extreme storm events mean for communities on the coast? (BAECCC fostered the creation of the “Our Coast, Our Future,” an on line tool that guides coastal municipalities in preparing for erosion and inundation. (ourcoastourfuture.org)
- How can we keep our precious tidal wetlands from being inundated by rising Bay waters? (BAECCC played a leading role in the 2016 climate change update of the Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals, the authoritative framework for Bay restoration projects.)
- Can we forecast and map how higher temperatures will affect our local watersheds and water supplies?
- How might ranchers manage rangelands to cope with more severe drought conditions?
- And how could these issues best be communicated to a skeptical or preoccupied public?
What happens now that BAECCC is gone? BAECCC Executive Coordinator Andy Gunther says that the collaborative did its job in “accelerating the preparations for our future climate.”
“Prior to BAECCC, the concept of ‘natural infrastructure’ wasn’t part of the lexicon” utilized by public agencies and corporations in addressing climate change impacts, he said. Now it is.
Cohen agrees. “So much cross-pollination occurred at those meetings,” she says. “BAECCC definitely broke down barriers and advanced climate-smart conservation.” But, she adds, “In truth, BAECCC is needed now more than ever,” particularly in a region that has so many political jurisdictions. “There is an urgent need for those cross-boundary collaborations to help move us beyond studies and vulnerability assessments to actual demonstration projects on the ground and at sea, to determine what works and to share that knowledge.”