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.

Members Open Day

Highstead Happenings > Members Open Day

Highstead celebrates spring every year with a Members Open Day. On a selected Saturday in May, Highstead opens its trails to the public, offering a two-hour morning tour of its property with a conservation and/or ecological theme followed by a reception and conservation lecture in the early afternoon. Our speakers share innovative, up-to-date, and sometimes provocative thoughts on conservation and the natural world, with a focus on the New England region we call home.

2019 – Bird-friendly Communities

Katie Blake, Audubon Connecticut

Katie will give a brief overview of Audubon Connecticut’s Healthy Habitat Programs - Urban Oases, Schoolyard Habitat and Plants for Birds. Together, these programs work to identify, improve and conserve important stop-over habitat for migrating songbirds all along the Atlantic migratory flyway. The talk will focus on the Plants for Birds Program and offer practical and simple ways any homeowner or gardener can make a difference for birds and pollinators right in their own backyard. Katie will also offer useful resources to help you get started!

View the invitation here.

2018 – Birdwalk led by H. Emerson “Chip” Blake

Chip Blake, Ecologist and Editor-in-Chief of Orion magazine




 A life-long birder, Chip has led hundreds of birdwalks and has birdwatched throughout North America, Central and South America, and Europe. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of Orion, a nature magazine that celebrated its 35th year of publication in 2017. Articles and books he has edited have received numerous awards, and in 2016 he received an Honorary Doctorate from the Environmental Sciences and Forestry Program of the State University of New York. A native of Philadelphia, he lives in Housatonic, Massachusetts.

View the invitation here.

2017 – Bird Conservation Across Connecticut

Corrie Folsom-O’Keefe, Important Bird Area Program Coordinator, Audubon Connecticut

Corrie Folsom-O’Keefe, Important Bird Area Program Coordinator with Audubon Connecticut, shared her knowledge about threatened and endangered birds in Connecticut and the broad array of strategies employed to protect them.

View the invitation here.


2016 – Butterflies in My Backyard

Victor DeMasi, renowned lepidopterist from Redding, CT




Renowned lepidopterist Victor DeMasi spoke at Highstead’s annual Open Day May 7, delivering a talk titled, “Butterflies in My Backyard.” DeMassi explained how butterfly gardens can promote pollinator diversity and addressed the fate of butterflies in an environment shaped by climate change and invasive plant species.

View the invitation here.

2015 – Natural Landscapes: Meadows, Woods, and Water

Larry Weaner, nationally renowned landscape designer and horticulturalist

Larry Weaner discussed natural gardens that can reduce maintenance, improve the environment, and enhance the beauty of any property.

His talk titled, “Natural Landscapes: Meadows, Woods, and Water,” featured case studies of residential properties in the northeast. The presentation outlined techniques for integrating native plant compositions and ecological processes into the residential setting. Projects were described from inception to maturity, providing a comprehensive look at creating and maintaining natural gardens.

His work has been profiled in The New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalLandscape Architecture MagazineGarden DesignAmerican Gardener, and Wildflower Magazine. Weaner is a recipient of the Landscape Design Award from the New England Wildflower Society for use of native plants in “exceptional and distinctive landscape compositions.”

View the invitation here.

2014 – Land-use Decisions and the Future of New England's Forests

Jonathan Thompson, Senior Ecologist at the Harvard Forest, and Lead Author of Changes to the Land: Four Scenarios for the Future of the Massachusetts Landscape





Jonathan Thompson discussed the groundbreaking Changes to the Land report, which shows that recent trends in Massachusetts forest loss, if allowed to continue, will undermine conservation gains, harm water and air quality, and limit natural protections against climate change.

The report was developed by W&W Partner Harvard Forest and the Smithsonian Institution using sophisticated computer modeling to produce four different land use scenarios for the future of Massachusetts.

Calling for the protection of 70 percent of New England as forests, the report highlights that it is possible to protect forests while still allowing for sustainable levels of local wood production, agriculture, and economic development.

View the invitation here

2013 – Thoreau Scholar Discusses Climate’s Impact on Plants

Richard Primack, Professor of Biology at Boston University

A scientist who uses the observations in Henry David Thoreau’s journals as the basis for his groundbreaking studies on climate change discussed “Walden’s Plants and Animals: From Thoreau to Today.”   The talk was illustrated with photos taken in Concord, and connected to quotes from the journals of Thoreau.

Richard Primack and his colleagues at Harvard have used Thoreau’s journal to compare flowering times, the stirrings of animals, and the arrival of migratory birds from 150 years ago to today. By studying 32 spring-flowering native plants from a variety of habitats, Primack has discovered that they are now flowering much earlier due to climate change. Migratory birds are also arriving earlier, but are changing less than the plants.

Read announcement

2012 – Collaborative Conservation: The Leading Edge in Land Protection

Bill Labich, Regional Conservationist at Highstead 






This lecture by Bill Labich focused on the importance of regional conservation partnerships (RCPs), and how these collaborative efforts will advance the Wildlands & Woodlands vision to conserve 70% of New England as forests over the next 50 years.  Such a grand accomplishment will require conservationists to band together in new and innovative ways.  

Read about the lecture

2011 – Coyote at the Kitchen Door: Living with Wildlife in Suburbia

Stephen DeStefano, research professor, Department of Natural Resources Conservation, at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and leader, U.S. Geological Survey’s Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

Dr. Stephen DeStefano delivered a lecture on his new book, Coyote at the Kitchen Door: Living in the Wildlife in Suburbia. Dr. Stefano discussed the effects of urban and suburban development on the landscape, wildlife, and people.

As he explores what our insatiable appetite for real estate means for the health and well-being of animals and ourselves, Dr. Stefano highlighted growing concerns of our modern world. These concerns included the loss of nighttime darkness due to light pollution and the comparisons between the sometimes cherished, sometimes feared place nature holds in our lives as we cluster into cities yet show an increasing interest in the natural world.

Press Release, Redding Pilot

2010 – “Wildlands and Woodlands: A Vision for the New England Landscape”

David Kittredge, Ph. D., Professor of Forestry, and the Extension Forester at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst






Dr. Kittredge is one of the primary authors of “Wildlands and Woodlands: A Vision for the New England Landscape” that was released to the public on May 19, 2010. Dr. Kittredge discussed this paper and its relevance to the southern New England landscape.

Read the 2010 W&W Report and the 2012 W&W Update