After a natural disaster—or in preparation for the climate-fueled disasters to come—many communities are rebuilding old infrastructure or launching brand new mitigation projects. Business as usual means concrete and rebar, but some are opting for more sustainable solutions.
After flooding on North Dakota’s Red River deluged the city of Fargo repeatedly from 1997 to 2014, Audubon Dakota teamed up with the Fargo Parks District and other partners on the Urban Woods and Prairies Initiative. Flood-buyout properties along the river’s banks offered an opportunity to improve habitat, add natural park space, and increase flood resilience. By lining the river with parks instead of private property, the partnership created a protective buffer of natural prairie vegetation adapted to the river’s cycles. So far, 23 nature parks covering more than 1,000 acres have been built along the river in Fargo and its cross-river neighbor, Moorhead, Minnesota.
For decades conservationists have been working to restore San Francisco Bay’s wetlands, which had been developed for farms, factories, landfills, military bases, and freeways. The goal is to create 100,000 acres of wetlands by 2030 to naturally mitigate rising seas. What’s more, these marshes will largely eliminate the future need for seawalls, which can crumble over time while also interrupting the natural movement of water, destroying vital coastal habitat. So far, 20,000 acres have been restored, and in 2016 voters supported Measure AA, a tax backed by Audubon California that’s expected to raise $500 million over 20 years to fund the ongoing work.