The Southern New England Heritage Forest is an anomaly, a 1.49 million-acre forest corridor flanked by the Hartford, Worcester, and Providence metro areas and one of the last remaining unfragmented sections in the coastal sprawl from Boston to Washington, DC. But this remarkable landscape, still 76% forest and farmland, is increasingly feeling the pinch of encroaching development.
Nineteen partners led by The Last Green Valley, MassConn Sustainable Forest Partnership, and Northern Rhode Island Conservation District joined together in 2016 to secure a $6.1 million award from the National Resource Conservation Service’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).
The five-year effort seeks to foster a “conservation pipeline” through a combination of targeted outreach and assistance designed to help landowners access federal programs that fund land management, restoration, and permanent protection through easements. “This program is aimed at landowners who may never have thought about woodland management before,” explained Lois Bruinooge, Executive Director of The Last Green Valley and coordinator of the Southern New England Heritage Forest Partnership. “They may never have thought to sign up with NRCS, because they’re not necessarily interested in commercial timber harvest.” One of the strategies designed to appeal to these landowners is bird habitat assessments that will be offered in collaboration with Audubon partners in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
In part, Bruinooge attributes the strength of the proposal to the nontraditional mix of partners, which includes representation from a water supplier, the forest products sector, state agencies, academic institutions, land trusts, and environmental nonprofits. Bruinooge is hopeful that the RCPP initiative will open eyes to new possibilities through landscape-scale collaboration. “It’s a concrete example of what we can do when we look beyond individual town or state boundaries, and proof that we can bring new federal money to the region when we work together.”
Map Courtesy of Brian Hall
For more information, contact any of the lead partners:
Lois Bruinooge, The Last Green Valley
Ed Hood, MassConn Sustainable Forest Partnership
Kate Sayles, Northern RI Conservation District