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 Program Initiatives

Conservation > Initiatives

Hudson to Housatonic Conservation Initiative


H2H Map

Select map for larger view


The Hudson to Housatonic Initiative is a collaborative effort of more than two dozen local and regional partners aimed at protecting drinking water sources and plant and wildlife habitat.

The program focuses on engaging landowners across Fairfield County in Connecticut and Westchester and Putnam counties in New York to drive the conservation of watersheds and habitats that are likely to adapt to climate change. The first H2H workshop was held at Highstead December 11 and featured a mix of presentation and activities to help participants see conservation through a climate change lens. Click here for presentation videos from the workshop.

This project is funded in part through a grant awarded by the U.S. Forest Service, Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry. H2H is part of the Landscape Scale Restoration Program of the U.S. Forest Service, Department of Agriculture.

H2H is lead by Highstead (on behalf of the Fairfield County Regional Conservation Partnership), along with Westchester Land Trust, Mianus River Gorge, and Housatonic Valley Association.

Click here for presentation videos from the H2H workshops.




Wildlands and Woodlands Initiative Coordination and Conferences

The Highstead Conservation Director is also the Coordinator of the W&W Initiative and works to convene W&W leaders quarterly and to help advance a suite of synergistic initiatives focused on accelerating the conservation of New England’s natural landscapes. Highstead also convenes an annual meeting of W&W partners every year, and encourages people and organizations of all geographies and sectors to join in as a W&W partner in support of accelerated and concerted forestland conservation in New England. And Highstead convenes a major annual conference for the RCP Network (see below) in order to provide technical training and opportunities for peer exchange. For more information, please visit the Wildlands and Woodlands website, or contact Cheryl Daigle cdaigle@highstead.net if you would like to be more involved.



Regional Conservation Partnerships

Select map for a larger view

MassConn Sustainable Forest Partnership

Invited to attend an early meeting of the then just-emerging MassConn Sustainable Forest Partnership (in late 2007), which now serves 37 towns in south-central Massachusetts and northeastern Connecticut, Highstead began a five-year effort to assist members to get organized and equipped in order to double the pace of conservation. Highstead encouraged them to choose one of their own to serve as their first coordinator; to have regularly scheduled meetings at which members would have time to share their own updates, concerns, and goals for collaboration; to convene, and to write grants, with other RCPs; to form a representative steering committee; to hire a part-time coordinator; and to begin efforts to plan their regional and strategic conservation efforts. 

In addition, Highstead has helped the group secure just under $70,000 in grant funding (with another $30,000 proposed) enabling continuous coordination, capacity to reach, train, and engage woodland owners and municipal officials about land conservation, to organize multi-parcel Forest Legacy projects, apply for a new Forest Legacy area in Massachusetts (the Heritage Forest), and to develop their own strategic regional conservation map and plan with focus areas. Highstead continues to serve on the MassConn Steering Committee.

Priorities Landscape Initiative


Select map for larger view

Highstead is coordinating the six-state NY-New England Family Forest Owner Outreach Initiative within four inter-state priority landscapes identified by the New England Governors Conference in 2010. Encouraged by the participants of the 2010 RCP Gathering who wanted to fundraise together, collaborate across state lines, and support the NEGC‘s efforts, RCPs were convened and crafted a proposal that became the keystone activity of a three-year $450,000 US Forest Service grant to the North East State Foresters Association (NEFA).

Across southern and central New England, Highstead works with the North East State Foresters Association, state foresters, and over 20 conservation organizations to cultivate three new partnerships of people working in the same large contiguous landscape that exist in more than one state (the Taconics, the Deerfield and West River watersheds of Southern VT and Western MA, the highlands stretching from the Quabbin Reservoir in central MA to the Whites in NH, and the coastal forests that stretch from Long Island Sound in eastern CT and western RI north to the Quabbin). The overarching objective of the initiative is to find new and effective ways to bring land management and conservation information to family forest owners, and to thus help replace the recent trend of land sales and habitat fragmentation with a new trajectory of permanent land conservation and sustainable forest stewardship.

Each partnership has received training in various landowner outreach and engagement strategies and in how best to communicate with which specific landowner type (based on the National Woodland Owner Survey results). Highstead helps to organize each partnership based on its needs by convening early meetings, developing collaborative action plans, and coordinating their individual contracts with NEFA. With Highstead’s and others’ support, three new RCPs have emerged out of this process: Taconics Partnership, MA-VT Woodlands Partnership, and the Southern New England Forest Heritage Partnership. In each of these cases, the partnerships represent new collaborations between government and private conservation organizations across state lines.

For more information on the project, please click 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 and to advocate for increased federal funding and improved policies to conserve them. The group’s annual publication, A Policy Agenda for Conserving New England Forests, makes a 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. In 2012, 85 organizations endorsed the forest agenda, and this influential effort continues to build momentum in Congress and beyond for redoubling our forest conservation efforts.

The Forest Policy Group, including 60 conservation and forestry organizations, submitted testimony this spring to both the Senate and House Interior Appropriations Subcommittees regarding priorities for New England in the FY14 budget, and is in the midst of updating a more comprehensive Forest Policy Agenda for the New England Congressional Delegation.