Voices from the Land

Voices from the Land: Listening to New Englanders’ Views of the Future, released in September 2018 by W&W lead partner Harvard Forest and the Science Policy Exchange, with support from W&W lead partner Highstead, provides a stakeholder-driven approach for addressing the important question: What does the future hold for the New England landscape?

A limited number of print copies are available. To request print copies, send your mailing address with the subject “Voices from the Land Print Copy Request” to Lucy Lee: lucylee@fas.harvard.edu.

Local Views of the Land

The Voices report summarizes the perspectives of 169 New Englanders — based on interviews and workshops in each state — regarding future land development, conservation, agriculture, and timber harvest.

Participants showed a powerful attachment to the New England landscape and urgent concerns about whether current conservation and land-use planning activities are enough to keep pace with increasing development pressure, forest fragmentation, extreme weather, and changing economic pressures on landowners.

Where Stakeholder Voices Converged

The key findings in the report include:

  • Many participants expressed similar views about what a positive future for New England could look like.
  • Compounding pressures that are changing the land at accelerating rates and in less predictable ways pose new challenges for landowners and land managers.
  • New Englanders view environmental, social, and economic issues as interconnected forces that together shape the future of the land, as exhibited by the two drivers of change that define 4 future scenarios (described in the report).
  • Many believe that new land-use planning approaches, land conservation partnerships, and resources are needed to better adapt to change.

Voices as a Foundation for Research and Action

The Voices publication does not end with summarizing the key themes that emerged in interviews and workshops.

Stakeholder narratives formed the basis for four scenarios of future land use in New England, which are also described in detail in the report. These scenarios provided parameters for a complex computer model — developed at the Harvard Forest in senior ecologist Jonathan Thompson’s lab — analyzing 4 possible outcomes for land cover in New England through 2060.

In addition to describing the scenarios, the new report outlines the conservation and research applications they provide.

This report is the first of several products and associated events to look for in the coming year:

  1. New England online scenario explorer tool (expected launch: January 2019)
    This interactive tool, currently in development with support from the National Science Foundation and Highstead, will make scenarios data and mapping products available and accessible to conservation professionals and the public.
  2. Scenarios, Services, and Society RCN Final Workshop (November 14 and 15, 2018, in Amherst MA — as part of the 2018 RCP Network Gathering)
    Registered attendees will join capstone workshops on the New England land-use scenarios and their applications for conservation and research. Attendees can also try out the scenarios-based interactive online mapping tool prototype and help shape its final phase of development.
  3. Online scenario explorer tool and planning workshops (late January and February 2019)
    These interactive workshops will be open to stakeholder participants from the scenario-generation process and others interested in using the scenarios for conservation applications and research. At least 4 workshops will be offered. Details will be announced later this fall on this webpage.
  4. Changes to the Land: New England (expected May-June 2019)
    A regional follow-up to a Massachusetts-based Changes to the Land report published in 2013, this publication will use maps and data to 1) provide a detailed snapshot of the modern New England landscape and the interacting ecological and human forces that have shaped it, 2) illustrate drivers of current and future change, and 3) use scenarios to explore the changes we can expect on the landscape in the coming half-century.