Regional Conservation Partnerships have helped shape collaborative conservation throughout New England and eastern New York for decades, protecting over 335,000 acres of land in the region. The Regional Conservation Partnership (RCP) Network goes one step further by encouraging peer learning and cross-boundary collaboration among RCPs and other regional partners creating opportunities for training, research, and capacity-building that leverage investments and scale up their collective conservation impact over time.
Today, the RCP Network consists of over 50 RCPs, over 600 organizations and agencies, and, the potential to reach over 1600 municipalities and townships throughout New England, New York and beyond.
A brief history
Highstead first began working with individual RCPs in 2007 in support of the Wildlands & Woodlands vision for land conservation in the region. In 2009, Highstead initiated research in RCPs that led to the first RCP Gathering in 2010. In 2011, RCP coordinators began to see a need to organize across boundaries, sharing knowledge and resources. So in 2012, they formed the Network and chose Highstead Foundation as its host partner and champion.
Over the next three years, Highstead conducted surveys, published research, developed resources like the RCP Handbook, and established partnerships with groups like Open Space Institute, North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative, and Jessie B. Cox Trust. The Network’s first steering committee was formed in 2015, leading the effort to craft a shared mission, goals, and priority objectives.
Supporting collaborative conservation
Highstead serves the Network by providing support for convening and coordination. Together, we help the RCPs to better leverage human and financial capital to increase the scale of our collective impact.
The Network makes it easier for RCPs to learn from each other, to implement innovative practices to overcome challenges, and to protect land from development at a scale beyond what individual RCPs and regional partners could do on their own. Working toward the Wildlands & Woodlands vision, the Network harnesses the power of conservation groups and encourages stakeholders from other sectors to become involved.
Our collective of private and public groups work together to drive innovation and foster collaboration between governments, businesses, conservationists, philanthropists, regional planning and local economic development groups, academic institutions, scientists, and other networks.
Making an impact
Since forming and with Highstead’s support, the RCP Network has helped RCPs conserve more than 35,000 acres across the region and secure more than $23M from grants, federal funding, and fundraising. At least 12 new RCPs have been established and more than 25 have advanced one or more stages of development through direct Network engagement.
Building on existing momentum, the RCP Network is working to build capacity over the next decade to do its part to help meet the Wildlands & Woodlands vision and United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals as it seeks to help raise $300M for grants and easements with the hope of protecting an additional 300,000 acres of connected habitat, carbon-rich family forests, protected watersheds, and parks and trail systems in the more populated areas of our region.
The RCP Network today
Today, the Network provides start-up and training programs for RCPs, coordinates cross-boundary initiatives, increases conservation capacity through its fundraising efforts, and supports data-driven climate communications. The Network also hosts an annual conference, The RCP Network Gathering, that attracts conservationists, planners, industry leaders, funders, scientists, and policymakers, creating a forum for discussing solutions to the most pressing environmental issues facing our region.
Highstead’s Senior Conservationist, Bill Labich and Conservationist Katie Blake provide leadership, coordination, grant administration/curation, peer exchange, and training.
RCP in Action
See how Highstead works with the Hudson to Housatonic RCP.