Wildlands & Woodlands Website

Highstead works to inspire curiosity and build knowledge about plants and wooded landscapes in order to enhance life, preserve nature, and advance sound stewardship practices.

Regional Conservation


Wildlands and Woodlands Initiatives Broaden the Base for Conservation

H2H Map

New England’s expansive forests provide myriad benefits to communities, including clean water and flood protection; healthy air; local wood and food production; resilient habitat; outdoor recreation and tourism; and vast stores of carbon to help mitigate climate change. In response to research documenting a second wave of forest loss underway in all six New England states, the Wildlands and Woodlands vision calls for the permanent protection of existing farmland and 30 million acres of forest (70% of the region’s land area), with most of the forestland managed for wood products and other benefits (27 million acres) and 10 percent set aside as wildland reserves (3 million acres).  

Co-led by Highstead and Harvard Forest, the Wildlands and Woodlands Initiative convenes partners across New England and eastern New York to accelerate landscape-scale conservation; develop and share information on relevant science, analysis, and regional conservation activities;  and support existing and emerging partnerships. A 2017 report, Wildlands and Woodlands, Farmlands and Communities: Broadening the Vision for New England, provides a detailed overview of the W&W vision, supporting facts and figures based on Harvard Forest and Highstead research, and recommended actions for land trusts, Regional Conservation Partnerships (RCPs), and others to take to realize W&W goals.  For more information on the history and evolution of this ambitious vision and current activities, please visit the Wildlands and Woodlands website.

RCP Network

RCPs are generally informal yet organized networks of people representing private and public organizations and agencies who work together to develop and implement a shared, long-term conservation vision across town and sometimes state and international boundaries to protect and steward more land at a larger scale. Over 40 RCPs are formally recognized across New England, eastern New York, and beyond, providing support to the land trust community and conservation partners to increase the pace of land conservation in this region. In 2007, Highstead began convening representatives of RCPs to share resources. In 2012, the RCP Network was formally launched, with Highstead playing a lead coordinating role with the support of an active steering committee to make it easier for RCPs to Build their capacity to conserve more land by learning from each other, working with regional partners like state and federal agencies, and collaborating to seek funding opportunities. One way RCPs share resources and information on successful on-the-ground strategies is the annual RCP Network Gathering, a day-long conference where people working on collaborative conservation across the region benefit from the insights of their peers, from technical training workshops, expert panels, and explore new ideas to broaden the base of people and groups engaged in conservation. For more information, please contact Senior Conservationist Bill Labich at blabich@highstead.net..

Hudson to Housatonic Regional Conservation Partnership

The Hudson to Housatonic (H2H ) Regional Conservation Partnership is a collaborative effort of more than 50 non-profit organizations; units of federal, state, and local government; community groups; corporations; and individuals aimed at protecting drinking water sources, and plant and wildlife habitat. The interstate partnership, co-hosted by Highstead and Westchester Land Trust, focuses on engaging landowners across Fairfield County in Connecticut and Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess counties in New York to drive the conservation of watersheds and habitats that are likely to adapt to climate change. Highstead provides support through strategic planning, coordinating meetings and workshops, providing meeting space, working with partners to produce maps showing conservation priorities and land protection status, managing the H2H website, and contributing to the creation of new communications products. This initiative was launched with support through a grant awarded by the U.S. Forest Service, Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry.  

Prominent community-based activities supported by H2H include the rapidly expanding Pollinator Pathway [add link to https://h2hrcp.org/pollinator-pathway] and collaboration with Cornell on e-Bird, a citizen science initiative that uses bird observations as a tool for conservation groups and landowners to track habitat quality, inform land management, and engage volunteers. Explore more about H2H at  http://h2hrcp.org/about-h2h or contact Senior Conservationist Bill Labich at blabich@highstead.net. 

Highstead Conservation Finance Program

Conservation finance is one of the most innovative arenas of strategic thinking and planning to address conservation challenges and opportunities of our time. Highstead works closely with Wildlands and Woodlands (W&W) partners and the Conservation Finance Network to develop innovative public and private finance strategies, and to inspire strong public support for land conservation. While building on past initiatives and success, we seek to incubate new partnerships that will: (1) accelerate the protection of forest and water resources (e.g., Sebago Clean Waters)  (2) incentivize sustainable production of food and fiber, (3) mitigate impacts from climate change, (4) improve public health, and (5) build rural economies. Senior Conservationist Spencer Meyer leads these initiatives on behalf of Highstead and W&W; for more information, contact Spencer at smeyer@highstead.net. Some recent Conservation Finance Program resources can be found here.  

New England Forest Policy Group

Since 2011, Highstead has convened conservation groups across the region in the New England Forest Policy Group to highlight the critical importance of New England’s forests. The group is working to build the compelling case that our region’s forests provide valuable and irreplaceable benefits—from ecosystem services including clean air and water to economic benefits including tourism and the wood products industry. We work together and train to develop better communication tools, engage new and unexpected partners, and educate local, state, and federal decision-makers why forests are worth conserving. 

In 2016, the group modified its mission and activities after surveying the New England conservation community.  In 2017, members adopted their first organizational framework that included six goals. Three of the goals are the current priority of new working groups focused on 1) Fostering greater cross-sector collaboration, 2) Developing a set of principles to guide shared messaging, and 3) Training members to engage local, state, and federal government officials. If you are interested in joining the New England Forest Policy Group, please contact the group’s coordinator, Highstead Senior Conservationist Bill Labich at  blabich@highstead.net.