The High Peaks Initiative RCP was excited to receive a Jessie B. Cox Trust Regional Conservation Partnership Grant for $20,000 back in June. The program supports "capacity-building projects that increase collaborative conservation campaigns among regional organizations", which is something that can benefit all conservation organizations. The value of collaboration for conservation organizations has been proven again and again, and it's something that our RCP has been engaged in for several years. The size of the Maine landscape and the lack of local authority means that, for community-based and local land trusts in the inland areas of Maine, collaboration is essential for our survival. Most recently, this has enabled the RCP to help complete the Crocker Mountain and Orbeton Stream projects which were spearheaded by The Trust for Public Land.
By partnering with a large, national conservation organization, the High Peaks Initiative RCP was able to complete these important, large conservation projects. But that does not mean that, as an RCP, we were on firm ground as a Conserving RCP. The size of the territory we work in, combined with low population and lack of traditional government institutions in the High Peaks area, meant that we were in danger of slipping back to a maturing or even an emerging RCP. That's when we decided to get together on one of the program criteria of the Regional Conservation Partnership Grants: a reboot of our conservation priority plan/map with focal areas. Instead of being the typical conservation priorities map based on what our RCP conservation organizations input as high priority, we would go out into the local communities where the individual RCP organizations work, and prioritize our findings based on that data. Thus the idea of the High Peak Gazetteer - for which the High Peaks Initiative RCP received the grant - was launched.
The individual organizations that are partnering on the High Peaks Gazetteer are the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust, High Peaks Initiative, The Wilderness Society and the Northern Forest Center. All of the organizations have different missions that focus on issues from land conservation itself to recreational trails to wildlife and ecological habitat. For this project, we were able to find common ground around the mission of our RCP in order to work towards fulfilling the mission of our individual organizations. Thanks to the Jessie B. Cox Trust Regional Conservation Partnership Grant, we are able to launch the project and sustain our RCP for future projects.
So you've read Blogging 101 and the Blogging Basics guide, came up with a great idea for a post, and starting drafting text. Now what? Going from draft to published post is easy once you know how to navigate the blogging system.
First Things First
To start, log in to rcpnetwork.org and go to the blog page. Here you can find previously published posts, create new posts, and edit your old posts. Click "Add Blog Post" in the upper right corner of the page to start. Type your headline and text into the fields available or copy and paste from your draft. If you are pasting text from a different document and run into formatting problems, try creating a text box in the body field and pasting your text there.
Using the Toolbar
Once your text is placed there are several options in the toolbar to adjust formatting and add visual elements and links. Here you can add photos, videos, links, and attachments. You can also adjust the font, create lists, and select block quotes. Many features offer additional options for customization. To see how your visual elements will look in the published post, click "Preview" at the bottom of the screen.
After you've placed your text and added visuals, there are some final options to consider. The "Excerpt" field below the body text field allows you to write a short summary of your post to be featured on the main blog page. However, this step is optional and the website will automatically use your first few sentences if you leave this area blank. You can also create a custom URL but, again, this is optional and the website will automatically create a URL from your post title if you leave the section blank. Below the URL field, you can add topic tags to help people find your blog (for example, if your blog is about landowner engagement for stewardship activities, you might use the tags landowner, stewardship, outreach, and engagement).
Ready, Set, Publish!
Now all that's left to do is double check your post and click publish! Posts can always be edited after publishing by clicking on the entry then clicking "Edit Post." Don't forget to share your post on social media (check out our Social Sharing guide for more information).
For a detailed step-by-step tutorial about posting to the blog, see our Posting to the Blog guide.
When writing a blog post, the goal is to craft content that engages readers, offers valuable information, and shares your story. This guide details the basics of blogging for rcpnetwork.org and offers tips to make your story stand out and appeal to readers.
What is your story and who is your audience?
Focus on a single topic and try summarizing your story in one sentence. Use the summary sentence to guide the rest of the post. A good story connects with the reader and leaves them with interesting or helpful information. TIP: Make sure to keep it concise! (Online readers tend to lose interest after 400 words.)
Think about who will be reading your blog post. Will they understand the terms you use? Do they have the background information necessary to understand your story? Always strive to craft posts that anyone – even someone with no prior knowledge about your topic – can understand.
Include important details
To ensure readers get a comprehensive understanding of your story, make sure to include the following in your post: RCP or organization name, location and/or focus area, RCP or organization website, project or focus area maps, photos of project areas, and voices from people involved. These critical elements will provide context for the reader and offer resources for additional information.
Enhance your text with visuals
Great text is made better by great visual elements. Including high-resolution, visually striking photos draws in the reader and reinforces the messaging in your story. Graphs, maps, and charts can provide valuable information, but make sure they are simple enough to be understood by someone with no scientific, data, or mapping background.
Good headlines attract more readers
A good headline grabs the reader and encourages them to keep reading. Strive to craft headlines that accurately summarize your main message in an exciting way. The headline should give the reader a taste of your topic and leave them wanting more. Refer back to your summary sentence for ideas of what to include in your headline. TIP: Avoid placing jargon, acronyms, or complicated terms in your headline, and keep it short – aim for 10 words or less!
Proofreading and then proofread again
Spelling, grammar, and formatting errors can be distracting. Give your readers a post that is easy to read and free of mistakes. It always helps to have someone double check your text before posting it on the blog.
Post, Share, and Engage
Before posting, make sure everything looks perfect. Check any hyperlinks and confirm your photos appear correctly. Once posted, share on social media and via email to spread the word and increase views. If people leave comments, engage with them in a thoughtful manner.
Download a PDF of these blogging tips here.
Dollars and acres are an important outcome metric of the Jessie B. Cox Trust’s Donated Land and Easement Program, but they are not the only measure of success. The initial feedback from RCP coordinators about the implementation of their transaction funds suggest that they have many benefits beyond the program’s instrumental value of conserving priority habitat:
Promoting learning and mentoring. Sharing and reciprocity are essential components of the health of any team. Each proposal review process conducted by RCP members creates a context to discuss regional conservation priorities and criteria. The review process provides another way for RCP members to have ownership in the partnership and its mission. More importantly, it encourages participants to think beyond their individual, organizational goals and projects. The review process also increases member awareness of other conservation projects and creates openings for leaders to advise and mentor other partners. This informal coaching and technical assistance serve to strengthen relationships among members and municipalities and increase the speed and efficiency of each project.
Increasing awareness of the RCP. A sign of a strong coalition is its ability to attract new social and financial capital. Sharing stories about successful land conservation is a key to raising local awareness. The conservation projects helped with the transaction fund create multiple public relations and media opportunities to showcase local RCP members and the regional initiative as a whole. The local media coverage and resultant flurry of website and social media visibility serve as an outreach tool that attracts new RCP members and allies.
Increasing strategic conservation. RCPs are well-known as a forum for promoting the adoption of good conservation practices. The use of conservation priority maps and criteria in the RCP’s own transaction fund process, for example, reinforces their value as a core conservation planning tool for RCPs. The “ground truthing” of the transaction fund review process serves as a rudder that encourages all members to consider their conservation targets in light of a regional plan. Local RCP fund review committees have also observed how the review process has made them more attuned to questions of habitat linkages and connectivity – values that may not have been explicit in their existing conservation priority maps, but are now emerging as important criteria.
Demonstrating the benefits of RCP membership. Like the saying in the credit card commercial - membership in an RCP has its rewards. RCP transaction funds reinforce the value of being a member of the regional partnership. They create tangible value for participating because members can apply for funding.
Sharing new resources and increasing equity. The donated land and easement funds have an important equalizing function that helps small organizations do more projects and increase their sense of importance and significance relative to peer organizations that may be larger. Funding gives land trusts with low operating budgets, working in very low-income communities with few private donors a tool to negotiate with landowners.
Kickstarting stalled projects. The availability of funding gives some land trusts an opportunity to reach out to landowners and discuss potential projects that had been stalled for various reasons. The transaction funds also stimulate the critical conversation about the dynamics and costs of landowner outreach and engagement.
Validating the RCPs as a funding platform. RCPs are emerging as an effective funding platform for donors. Local donors, foundations, State and Federal agencies have begun to recognize how a strong coalition can allocate resources strategically and effectively. The Merrimack Conservation Partnership's ability to raise additional funding to support its grants program, for example, sets a promising example for other conserving RCPs. RCPs have the potential to channel resources that support a range of donor interests, and a means for working with a much more diverse and cohesive set of conservation organizations than they normally would be able to manage on their own.
Reinforcing the value of the regional RCP Network. A good network is a self-organizing information system. The development of each RCP transaction fund has been influenced by informal technical assistance provided by the RCP coordinators that have developed relationships with the help of the Regional RCP Network coordinated by the Highstead Foundation.
I wanted to share with those of you who might work in the Berkshire Wildlife Linkage (Staying Connected's Greens to Hudson Linkage) that there is funding available to cover the due diligence costs for donations or steep bargain sales of land or easements. The Berkshire Wildlife Linkage Partnership was awarded a generous grant from the Jessie B. Cox Charitable Trust Fund at The Boston Foundation. TNC is the fiscal agent for this grant, and we are soliciting applications for funding. Round 1 applications are due July 1st, with a rolling deadline thereafter.
The application below includes instructions for how to use our online map at bit.do/linkagemap to determine eligibility. I have been getting some good questions from groups in CT and VT. Even if you are outside of MA, you can still use this map to see if the land you are thinking about is within the Linkage boundary. If it is not, unfortunately it is not an eligible project for funding. If it is, contact Jessica Dyson (contact info in the application) for help determining whether it is core habitat, an priority corridor, or along a priority road segment in your state.
I welcome questions, even if you're in the very early stages of deciding whether or not to apply. Please don't hesitate to reach out.
I recently had the opportunity to attend a three-day workshop run by Foundations of Success on using the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation and the software that is commonly associated with it, Miradi. Miradi is free to download and can be an incredibly valuable tool for conservation planning when used properly. It is used by The Nature Conservancy (among other conservation organizations) and countless local, state, federal and international NGOs and governments. The State of Maine used Miradi in the 2015 State Wildlife Action Plan (see page 44 for the diagram) and you can find countless examples of the use of the program by searching on Google or the Miradi website.
I know what you're thinking: this graphic is confusing and why do we need yet another conservation planning tool? I had the same thoughts prior to attending the workshop but came out thinking that this tool can have so many uses in the conservation community. This is a tool that helps gather the different voices and perspectives that need to be included in a conservation project, and aligns them according to the project scope. It attaches specific action items to specific threats (the green boxes labeled "Obj") so that there are direct action items. How many times has your organization identified threats to wildlife and habitat, but not identified ways to mitigate them? Miradi can help with this. I think it can be a particularly valuable tool for RCPs because they are inherently groups that tend to have priorities that aren't always completely aligned.
As the facilitator said to our group - Miradi is just a tool. It is not a software platform that one staff member can download, fill in and then distribute to your organization and then say "we have an action plan". The first step is to reach out to a conservation coach and see if this is something that might be a fit for your organization. If you aren't ready to do that, there are plenty of resources on the pages that I have linked within this post. You can download a trial version of Miradi for free and that version does not expire (it says 60 days, but that just means you can't receive updates beyond that unless you pay for a subscription).
If anybody would like more information, I'd be happy to answer any questions or supply more materials. I encourage you to explore the Miradi website if only to see what it's all about.
At the 2015 RCP Network Gathering, many of you voiced the need for communication and branding resources – and we listened!
The RCPnetwork.org website was launched this spring and we began the process of designing an RCP Network logo.
After weeks of developing and refining, and with input and direction from the RCP Network Steering Committee, we have three options to choose from and we want to know what YOU think!
Click here to select one of the three logo options that you think best represents the RCP Network.
Keep in mind that these are still working drafts and will be refined and finalized based on your feedback.
Please reply by Friday, June 3.
Dear RCP Network,
Over the past year Highstead has been collecting and organizing data on public funding for land protection at the federal, state, and local levels in the New England states, in the hopes of creating a resource for all those working to advance conservation in our region.
The results of this research have just been released as a joint Highstead-Harvard Forest publication available on the Wildlands & Woodlands website. The full report can be found here: http://www.wildlandsandwoodlands.org/public-funding-report and includes a regional overview, state-by-state summaries, and per capita conservation spending calculations for the 2004-2014 period. A complete list of data sources and contacts can be found in the report’s Appendix.
The overview document (available at the same link) is a great place to start and will outline the main points covered in the full report. Brief state-specific handouts are also available, as is a handout summarizing the role of the Land & Water Conservation Fund in New England. You are welcome to use any of these materials – we hope they are useful to you!
Please feel free to contact Mary Buchanan at Highstead with any questions or feedback: email@example.com
Applications are now open to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)Fiscal Year 2017 Regional Conservation Partnership Program. Nationally, $260 million will be available for projects that address regional landscape-scale resource priorities.
The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), created in the 2014 Farm Bill, can be an excellent source of financial and technical assistance funding for landowners in RCP regions. Funded projects seek to address resource concerns, such as water quality, soil health, and habitat connectivity and are intended to increase cooperation and foster innovation.
Pre-proposals for projects are due May 10.
The Land Trust Alliance will be hosting a conference call on March 30 for those interested in learning about the RCPP.
Wednesday, March 30 | 2:00 p.m. EST
Dial: 888-228-0571 (there is no passcode).
For more information on the RCPP program, click here.
Please mark your calendars for these two events:
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