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.

Conservation Overview

Conservation > Overview

Forests serve as our region’s green infrastructure. Forests provide us with timber, fuel, food, oxygen, and medicine; they control erosion, sequester carbon, and clean the air we breathe and the water we drink; they provide natural habitats for native fauna and flora; and they offer us opportunities for recreation and spiritual enrichment. Forests are the infrastructure we cannot live without. However, for the first time in 200 years, forest cover is declining in every New England state. If development continues at current rates, US Forest Service research estimates that parts of Southern New England could be 63% developed by 2030 – transforming New England as we know it today.

The influential 2010 report, Wildlands and Woodlands: A Vision for New England Landscape documents the tremendous environmental and economic value of forests. The vision calls for 70% of New England to be conserved as forestland, permanently free from development, over the next fifty years. The vision allows for a reasonable amount of compact development and encourages an increase in New England farming for local and sustainable food crops. Working together across the region to double the pace of current conservation will counteract the escalating trends of forest fragmentation, development and sprawl, and allow us to conserve our forested landscapes and the myriad economic, ecological and cultural benefits they provide. In September 2017, we released Wildlands and Woodlands, Farmlands and Communities, broadening the vision to fully embrace farmland and the built environment, from rural communities to suburban towns and densely populated cities. 

Highstead supports regional forest conservation through leadership involvement in the Wildlands and Woodlands Initiative in partnership with the Harvard Forest, other W&W leaders, and a growing cadre of W&W partners across New England.

For more information on specific initiatives, please see Regional Conservation and Conservation Finance pages.