Highstead Foundation

Bill Labich

Regional Conservationist, Highstead Foundation

Conservation goals
The Highstead Foundation supports the Wildlands and Woodlands vision, which is for 70 percent of New England’s forested landscape to remain undeveloped wildlands where natural processes can occur without intervention.bill-labich It’s not about where this will and won’t happen, rather, we work through regional partners, called Regional Conservation Partnerships (RCPs), to build capacity to get the work done across the region.

How Connect the Connecticut connects
We want to see people work together in the areas that make the most sense. It’s about relationship building, but towards getting work done. There can be a big difference between a plan and what happens on the ground, but to have a guide that says, this is what a group of federal agencies, states, and NGOs agreed made the most sense, is huge. If you are working locally, you should know what is going on regionally – where there is going to be energy for conservation.

How it will inform work on the ground
We want to use the design to catalyze conservation. Everybody has their own priorities and activities. The only way you can engage them to do something new is to attach opportunity to it. This is a way to show complementarity.

For Regional Conservation Partnerships to be effective, they have to do several things at the same time: coordinate within their territory and with neighboring RCPs, communicate what is happening at the local scale, and be able to see where they fit into the bigger picture. But until recently, it felt like there wasn’t an overall vision beyond what individual states wanted to do.

If you are working locally, you should know what’s going on regionally – where there is going to be energy for conservation.

This design offers that bigger picture, and the data allows both RCPs and individuals to figure out where they can link into it. So now they can ask: We have this design, now what can we do with this information? What corridors are already being worked on, and how can we contribute? We couldn’t ask that question before.

Example applications
Highstead is one of seven partners – including the Connecticut River Watershed Council – that have received funding from a $10 million federal grant from the USDA Regional Conservation Partners Program (RCPP) to reduce agricultural runoff into the Sound. For the Long Island Sound RCPP, we are figuring out what parcels will be eligible, what proves that a piece of land contains habitat that can support rare, threatened, and endangered species.

While many RCPs have strategic conservation plans that address these questions, not all of them do. So in areas of the Long Island Sound watershed that overlap with the Connecticut River watershed, we want to lean on the design for RCP areas that don’t have a plan as the large landscape strategic conservation network that diverse partners are promoting and using. The data from the design would help us identify the best prospective parcels for the RCPP.

Additional information and resources