Two key characteristics of successful efforts to conserve land in New England and eastern New York are generosity and innovation in conservation funding. A new finance tool, in this case to protect water quality and conserve rare species habitat in the Long Island Sound watershed, exemplifies those characteristics. RCP member land trusts throughout the watershed, which spans six states, have donated the value of select conservation easements as “match” to release $2.8 million in federal funding that may protect an additional 3000 acres of high priority habitat elsewhere in the vast region. To date, this “pooled match inventory” has raised over $5.4 million in match through the contributions of six land trusts that work in Connecticut, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, exceeding the total of $5.1 million in non-federal funding needed to begin accessing the federal funds.

The Highstead Foundation has been working on behalf of the Long Island Sound Watershed Regional Conservation Partnership Program (LISW-RCPP)—a multi-state, multi-partner collaboration—to identify willing partners throughout the watershed and help them compile the basic documentation needed to fill the pooled match inventory database. Over the past year, Aspetuck Land Trust and Kent Land Trust in Connecticut, Kestrel Land Trust and Hilltown Land Trust in Massachusetts, Upper Valley Land Trust in Vermont and New Hampshire, and Mianus River Gorge in New York stepped up as leaders in this pilot effort. For this RCPP, the new finance tool is collecting easement value associated with conservation easements that are not already being used as federal match and that were recorded between May 15, 2015, and May 14, 2020.

The contributed match will help up to nine other landowners protect 3000 acres of high priority rare species habitat within the Long Island Sound watershed. Successful completion means added protection for a whole suite of rare species, including wood thrush and wood turtle, two iconic state-listed species in the Northeast, and in a few cases, the protection of drinking water supplies.

Read here for background on the Long Island Sound Watershed RCPP.

If you are interested in learning more and participating in the pooled match inventory as part of current or future funding opportunities, please contact Bill Labich

Steps for determining eligibility and documenting easements for the pooled match inventory can be found here.

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