This year’s Gathering featured 24 workshops presented by more than 70 faculty across eight thematic tracks covering topics like climate resilience, regional land use issues, conservation finance, collaborative land protection, and engaging new partners and sectors. Seven workshops were eligible for the American Institute of Certified Planners credits, identified with a (CM) after the title.
Expand the track titles below to view workshop descriptions and presentations.
Session A Workshops - 10:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
A1: Synergies Between Joint Mitigation-Adaptation Practices in the Land Conservation Sector
Forests, wetlands, and agroecosystems are a critical component of natural climate solutions, yet a changing climate puts these ecosystems and the carbon they store at risk from a wide variety of stressors. Luckily, there is much land conservation practitioners can do to help these systems adapt to a changing climate. In this session, we will highlight the potential for synergies and win-wins between efforts to reduce climate change (mitigation) and prepare for and respond to climate change (adaptation) in the land conservation sector. We will discuss the important role of RCPs in joint mitigation-adaptation and connect to the scope of work accomplished by the land conservation sector across acquisition, advocacy, education, stewardship. We will highlight real-world examples of how conservation organizations are providing carbon benefits while also meeting other diverse management goals, such as wildlife habitat and sustainable wood products.
Moderator: Todd Ontl, Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science and USDA Northern Forests Climate Hub │ Speakers: Steve Hagenbuch, Maria Janowiak, Melissa Ocana, & Nancy Patch
Workshop Presentation - Synergies Between Joint Mitigation-Adaptation Practices in the Land Conservation Sector
A2: New Science Shows Conservation is an Economic Driver for Communities (CM)
Building on the theme of natural climate solutions, this session will highlight several ways how conserving natural forest systems for climate mitigation also provides economic benefits to communities and the region. Topics will include: return on investments in conservation; how conservation can lead to job growth; the community forest movement, and how watershed protection bridges economic and environmental benefits.
Moderator: Spencer Meyer, Highstead │ Speakers: Adam Daigneault, Jennifer Plowden, Julie Renaud Evans, & Kate Sims
Jennifer Plowden – Conservation as an Economic Driver
Julie Renaud Evans – Community Forests
A3: Forest Conservation Amidst Competing Land Use (CM)
You know that your landscape is worth conserving, but how do you go about making the case for it and building a strategy with a larger audience? This workshop will examine case studies focusing on forest conservation in densely populated eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where woodlands remain an important part of the mosaic amidst changing land uses and for climate resilience. When are traditional tools still viable and when do new approaches make sense? Workshop leaders will discuss lessons learned from these efforts to assess the full range of economic and environmental values and conserve natural lands.
Moderator: Christopher Riely, Rhode Island Forest Conservation Advisory Committee, Rhode Island Woodland Partnership │ Speakers: Judee Burr, Heidi Ricci & Kate Sayles
Judee Burr, Christopher Riely, & Kate Sayles – The Value of Rhode Island Forests
Heidi Ricci – Forest Conservation Among Competing Uses
A4: Making Resilience Data Work for Your RCP
How do regional conservation partnerships balance priorities for protecting resilient habitat with other conservation values? How do you decide which types of data will lead you from planning to action? How can RCPs effectively communicate priorities based on resilience with partner organizations and the general public? The session will feature a panel discussion of three Maine-based RCPs: Downeast Conservation Network, 12 Rivers Conservation Initiative, and the Maine Mountain Collaborative. All three RCPs have undertaken recent efforts to evaluate conservation priorities in the light of new resilience data. Panelists will share their lessons learned and what worked well in their regions and invite the audience to share their own insights and challenges. In this interactive session, we will identify best practices on climate-informed conservation planning.
Moderator: Jeremy Gabrielson, Maine Coast Heritage Trust │ Speakers: Bob Deforrest, Ruth Indrick, & Bryan Wentzell
A5: TRANSFORMING COLLABORATIVE CONSERVATION LEADERSHIP
As our conservation challenges increase in scale, there is a growing need for collaborative efforts that reach across boundaries to address whole, interconnected systems. To meet that challenge requires a different type of leadership: one where power is shared and solutions are co-created by a network of interdependent stakeholders. Collaboration in the 21st century will only be impactful if we transform the way we lead – individually and together. Knowing how to do that in our current cultural climate is no small task. It requires a new level of authenticity, awareness, and action. This workshop guides conservation professionals through a new leadership paradigm. Participants will learn the four practices of conscious leadership that will enable them to become more impactful in their work and learn how to them within a collaborative environment. This workshop is ideal for anyone who desires a more mindful, intentional approach to leadership.
Moderator/Speaker: Laura Calandrella, Laura Calandrella Consulting
Workshop Presentation - Transforming Collaborative Conservation Leadership
A6: An RCP Guide to Getting Started with Municipal Engagement
Has your Regional Conservation Partnership (RCP) considered working with municipalities? In the Northeastern US, municipalities have a great deal of control over how land is used in their jurisdictions. Building productive relationships with local officials and identifying shared conservation interests can be an essential part of achieving RCP goals as well as building support in the community. In this highly interactive session, experts in municipal and conservation outreach will talk about how and why it might be valuable for your RCP to work with municipalities in your region. Participants will learn how to use an outreach planning tool to think more strategically about municipal engagement and discuss ways to coordinate among partners with varied capacity.
Moderator: Karen Strong, Strong Outcomes, LLC, Rensselaer Plateau Working Forest Initiative │ Speakers: Laura Heady
Workshop Presentation — An RCP Guide to Getting Started With Municipal Engagement
A7: Trends in Public and Private Conservation Funding
Following Highstead’s 2016 report showing public funding for conservation fell by nearly half since 2008, this panel will showcase the most recent trends in public and private funding for land protection. From broad regional information to specific federal and state programs, the panelists will share their insights on where the funding landscape is headed and what the key policy issues are.
Moderator: Tara Whalen, Highstead │ Speakers: Andrew Du Moulin, Amy Paterson & Dan Wright
Andrew DuMoulin – Conservation Finance 2019 Election Wrap-Up
Amy Paterson – Connecticut Land Conservation Council
Dan Wright – Farm Bill, RCPP, & CIG
A8: Wildlands Reserves in New England: Why We Need Them and How We Are Creating Them
Wildlands, — i.e., protected forests that are managed to be shaped by natural processes with minimal human impact – represent a very small fraction (2-3%) of the New England landscape. Yet wildlands provide disproportionately large benefits in the form of vegetation structure, habitat and species diversity, and carbon storage & climate mitigation. Moreover, wildlands provide unparalleled locations for solitude, inspiration, and escape from human-dominated landscapes. Despite these benefits, important opportunities to protect wildlands are often undervalued relative to conserving forest cover in general or overlooked in favor of the broader designation of multiple-use forests. In this informational workshop, we will detail some of the scientific and human rationale for increasing the amount of wildlands in New England, the importance of making Forever Wild Easements available to landowners and RCPs, and how one regional land trust—the Northeast Wilderness Trust—is working to protect wildlands across the RCP landscape.
Moderator: Susan Masino, Trinity College │ Speakers: Tom Butler, Ed Faison & Jon Leibowitz
Tom Butler – Spiritual/Human Benefits of Wildlands
Jon Leibowitz – Northeast Wilderness Trust
Session B Workshops - 1:45 p.m. — 3:00 p.m.
B1: Natural Climate Solutions in Action: The Greening the Gateway Cities Tree Planting Program and the Importance of Trees from Rural Forests to City Streets (CM)
Natural climate solutions fight climate change by reducing carbon emissions and removing carbon pollution while providing many other benefits at the same time. Rural forests and wetlands are carbon storage powerhouses that filter much of our drinking water and reduce inland flood risk. City and suburban trees reduce carbon emissions from energy used to heat and cool buildings, help manage stormwater, and improve the health of those nearby. Join us to learn more about natural climate solutions and why they are critical to fighting climate change, as well as about the successful Greening the Gateway Cities tree planting program. This program has planted over 20,000 trees in 14 communities across Massachusetts. In addition to the main presenters, community groups working with the Greening the Gateway Cities program will take part in a discussion about how to apply the most successful elements of this program in your RCP.
Moderator: Laura Marx, The Nature Conservancy, Staying Connected Initiative │ Speakers: Mathew Cahill, Laura Marx
B2: Conservation as the Foundation of Tourism and Recreation (CM)
The outdoor recreation industry supports 430,000 jobs and $52 billion in consumer spending in New England every year. Yet this industry would not be possible without the special land and water places where people find their adventures. This panel will highlight the importance of land protection as an enabler for one of our region’s most important economic drivers, with case studies on mountain biking, hunting and fishing, tourism and more.
Moderator: Tara Whalen, Highstead │ Speakers: Maura Adams, Paul Catanzaro, Marla Markowski-Lindsay & Steve Schaefer
Paul Catanzaro & Marla Markowski-Lindsay – Economic Contributions of Forest Legacy Program Land
Steve Schaefer – Downeast Lakes Land Trust
B3: Developing an Integrated Vision for the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts
Current development trends and Open Space and Recreation Plans for nearly 69 towns in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts have been analyzed by Harvard Forest interns to explore how these municipal plans compare and contrast to the Wildlands, Woodlands, Farmland and Communities Vision. After an overview of these findings by David Foster of Harvard Forest, panelists from rural, suburban, and urban municipalities in the Pioneer Valley, representatives from county planning commissions, real estate development, and regional land trusts will come together to discuss the challenges and opportunities of creating a more collaborative, proactive and integrated vision that addresses development and conservation across the region. The session will be facilitated by Kristin DeBoer of Kestrel Land Trust.
Moderator: Kristin DeBoer, Kestrel Land Trust │ Speakers: Rosemary Arnold, Judith Eiseman, David Foster, Peggy Sloan, & David Ziomek
B4: Shaping the Climate Discussion: How to Engage Landowners and Communities in Positive Action
The impacts of climate change are stressors to ecosystems of any scale, but fear may not be the best motivator in getting people to respond to this massive challenge. Effective climate change communications, coupled with explanations of how nature helps us to adapt, can empower local and regional stakeholders to approach development and conservation strategically. The speakers, who work on climate resilience at a variety of scales (regions, states, private woodlands and conserved lands) share perspectives about what their programs have learned about climate change messaging for a variety of audiences – what works and what doesn’t. Learn how to initiate conversations about climate impacts and solutions, and how to explain the link between land use and climate adaptation. From the RCP level to the privately-owned parcel, community members can take steps to shape a resilient future. Let’s talk about it!
Moderator: Lisa Hayden, New England Forestry Foundation, MassConn Sustainable Forest Partnership │ Speakers: Maria Janowiak, Heidi Ricci, & Jeff Ritterson
Maria Janowiak – How to Engage Landowners and Communities in Positive Action
Heidi Ricci – Shaping the Climate Discussion
Jeff Ritterson – The Bird Umbrella: Engagement and Action
B5: An Under the Hood Look at What Makes RCPs Successful
While no two RCPs are exactly alike, many seek to accomplish similar missions through the use of known strategies, tools, and resources, including financial. By the late 2000s, nearly two-dozen RCPs had protected more land by coordinating and collaborating on federal and private grants for biodiversity. During the next decade, the number of conserving RCPs doubled even with the recession and changing interests of philanthropic foundations. What are RCPs doing to succeed? How do their members collaborate to leverage the capacity and resources of partners to govern, plan, and raise resources to achieve their objectives? Come to learn what makes RCPs tick, share your experiences, and take away ideas and lessons to advance your own collaborative conservation initiatives.
Moderator: Connie Manes, Housatonic Valley Association, Litchfield Hills Greenprint Collaborative│ Speakers: Elyse Arnow Brill, Emily Greene, & Christopher Riely
Workshop Presentation - An Under the Hood Look at What Makes RCPs Successful
B6: Inspiring Conservation and Stewardship Through Art: Three Contemporary Artists
The history of landscape conservation in America demonstrates that the work of artists—painters like Thomas Cole, Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Church, and photographers Carleton Watkins and Ansel Adams—has always been essential to shaping the human connection to the landscape, and motivating landscape conservation. This presentation will show how three contemporary artists are inspiring connections with a wide range of communities to promote environmental stewardship and land protection on 215-mile New England National Scenic Trail.
Moderator: Charles Tracy, National Park Service, AT Landscape RCP │ Speakers: Carolina Aragon, Ben Cosgrove, & Marisa Williamson
Workshop Presentation - Inspiring Conservation and Stewardship Through Art: Three Contemporary Artists
B7: Innovations in Private Investments in Conservation
Increasingly private investors are looking to align their investing with their philanthropic giving. These so-called “impact investors” are looking to forest and agriculture projects, which can provide both financial returns, as well as climate, biodiversity, and social benefits. Meanwhile, conservationists are getting more creative as public funding has declined. Our panelists are developing, and in some cases have already launched projects that bring together private investment with philanthropic and public funding to get more conservation done. Come along for the impact investment learning journey.
Moderator: Spencer Meyer, Highstead │ Speakers: Brian Donahue, Benneth Phelps, & Bryan Wentzell
Benneth Phelps – Dirt Capital Partners
Bryan Wentzell – Maine Mountain Collaborative
B8: Forests, Forestry, and Climate Change: How RCPs Can Engage on Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Using New England’s Forest Lands
Climate change is a system problem that threatens to overwhelm both the natural world and human society. Two regional conservation organizations have developed approaches to address this challenge on the East and West Coasts. These approaches sequester more carbon in the forest and deliver high-quality wood that can be used to construct low-carbon buildings from local, sustainable sources. This session will present the approaches developed by New England Forestry Foundation and Ecotrust and consider how those approaches can be applied locally. The session will show how a new systems approach can reduce development pressure on forests, provide a major new climate mitigation wedge, and perhaps even help heal the rural vs. urban political divide. RCPs and local land trusts could play a key educational role in advancing this new approach to climate and forests, and this session will give them the tools they need to advance climate-friendly forest management.
Moderator: Frank Lowenstein, New England Forestry Foundation│ Speakers: Lizzie Marsters and Bob Perschel
Lizzie Marsters – From Forest to Frame; A Climate Solution
Session C Workshops - 3:15 p.m. — 4:30 p.m.
C1: Tools and Processes for Integrating Conservation Planning and Climate Resilience (CM)
RCPs can play a transformational role in local climate resilience by encouraging strategic, community-driven planning and the incorporation of Nature-Based Solutions into local plan implementation. What are some of the critical tools and processes that can support RCPs in advancing these objectives? The Resilient Taunton Watershed Network has engaged communities in the Community Resilience Building (CRB) process developed by The Nature Conservancy. This consensus-based process supports climate adaptation and hazard mitigation planning through the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program, and can be applied elsewhere. This workshop will explore the use of Manomet’s Green Infrastructure Network as a foundational tool for climate adaptation planning, and how it can be used within the CRB framework to encourage adoption of Nature-Based Solutions at the community and regional scale.
Moderator: E.Heidi Ricci, Mass Audubon, Resilient Taunton Watershed Network │ Speakers: Sara Burns, Bill Napolitano, & Eric Walberg
Workshop Presentation - Tools and Processes for Integrating Conservation Planning and Climate Resilience
C2: Making the Pitch: An Economic Case for Conservation
In this third of three sessions in the ROI/Economics track, RCP members are introduced to a process by which they can develop a communications strategy centered on the economic benefits that result from conservation, building on what they would have learned in the first two sessions. This includes an overview of the relevant economic benefits and a discussion to help attendees identify their target audiences as well as the key economic talking points that are most effective with those groups. The session will also cover materials and media (including social media) as well as how to develop allies, foster relationships with nontraditional advocates, and leverage partnerships. It also includes an interactive activity that will enable attendees to take the lessons learned back to their communities and persuasively use economic information immediately.
Moderator and Speaker: Jennifer Plowden, The Trust for Public Land
Workshop Presentation - An Economic Case for Conservation
C3: Building Community Support for Conservation with an Economic and Social Lens
RCPs with a network of diverse partners can be very well suited to more broadly address the economic and social factors of conservation that can be challenging for conservation organizations to address alone. In this workshop, partners from the Downeast Conservation Network (DCN) will address questions such as, how can we ensure that conserved lands actually deliver tangible benefits to our communities? How do we better integrate communities into conversations and decisions about land use? How do communities create a shared vision for their future? And how do we factor in the effects of a changing climate into this all? This workshop will be an opportunity for attendees to share their own lessons learned and best practices for community engagement. We will explore issues such as rural municipal budgets, land use tax policy, and strategies for building broad partnerships.
Moderator: Erin Witham, Downeast Conservation Network │ Speakers: Tora Johnson
C4: Go Big or Go Home: Maximizing the Conservation Impact of Your RCP
From Big Visions come big investments in land protection: innovative approaches to accelerated conservation, abating key threats at scale, and changing individual and institutional behaviors to achieve conservation objectives. This session will offer a panel with big thinkers to share successful, disruptive RCP strategies that produce results.
Moderator: Tim Abbott, Housatonic Valley Association and Follow the Forest Initiative │ Speakers: Deb Davidson & Dennis Schaffer
Workshop Presentation - Natured Undivided: Connectivity Conservation
C5: Get More Landowners On Board! Key Behavioral Insights and Communication Strategies
If you’ve ever felt frustrated that landowners haven’t yet bought into your RCP or haven’t followed through on actions they’ve agreed to, then this workshop is for you. We’ll explore key theories about human behavior that explain why people don’t always take action, so you can pinpoint the reasons why landowners may be dragging their feet. We’ll also dive into four proven communication strategies and techniques that overcome psychological barriers and motivate people to take action. All concepts will be brought to a practical place with usable tips and guidance, so you can easily adapt and apply these methods for all audiences you need to motivate.
Moderator/Speaker: Brooke Tully, Trainer & Consultant
Workshop Presentation - Get More Landowners on Board! Key Behavioral Insights and Communication Strategies
C6: Engaging Communities in Conservation: From Small Towns to Downtown
With the majority of people living in urban and suburban communities, it is imperative that the conservation movement engage people in meaningful projects that meet the needs of their community while contributing to larger, whole-landscape conservation goals. Whether working in dense urban centers or small towns, conservation professionals will need to consider new approaches to working on initiatives as well as connect with additional partners in order to successfully implement and sustain conservation efforts. Panelists will share their experiences and approaches working with communities in coastal towns in southern Maine, in urban neighborhoods in New Haven, Connecticut, and in suburban and urban communities in western Massachusetts. Break-out discussions will provide attendees the opportunity to ask specific questions that will aid their work in engaging new partners in their community, in identifying the best conservation activities for the community, and in discovering resources to help initiate and sustain these projects. This session will also consider strategies for how an RCP can help support and advance work in community conservation.
Moderator: Katie Blake, Highstead, Hudson to Housatonic RCP │ Speakers: Doreen McGillis, Joel Tolman, Colleen Murphy-Dunning, & Melissa Patterson-Serrill
Workshop Presentation - Engaging Communities in Conservation: From Small Towns to Downtown
C7: The Climate – Land Conservation Nexus: a conversation (CM)
Land conservation provides many lasting benefits that help us mitigate and adapt to climate change, including forest and soil carbon sequestration, flood mitigation, watershed protection, and biodiversity conservation. Yet while climate change is on the minds of most Americans, land conservation is rarely at the fore. This panel will highlight two exciting examples of how conservation organizations are taking a lead on mitigating and adapting to climate change. We will then solicit your ideas and construct actions that your land conservation community can take to play a leading role in the face of climate change.
Moderator: Spencer Meyer, Highstead │ Speakers: Jocelyn Forbush, & Charlie Hancock
Jocelyn Forbush – Trustees OneWaterfront
Charlie Hancock – Cold Hollow to Canada
C8: Food, Farms, and Forests: The New England Food Vision and Climate Solutions (CM)
Finding “natural solutions” to the climate crisis means addressing social justice and conservation together, across the landscape from cities to the countryside, as exemplified in “A New England Food Vision” and the “Wildlands and Woodlands” vision for the future of the New England landscape. This panel will explore the need for investment in the region’s future in three key areas: 1) building urban farming, food justice, and resilience in urban neighborhoods; 2) investing in soil health on farms, and 3) tying ecosystem services payments to farm and forest conservation.
Moderator: Brian Donahue, Brandeis University │ Speakers: Anna Gilbert-Muhammad & Caro Roszell
Caro Roszell – Climate Solutions in the Edge Space
Anna Gilbert-Muhammad – Healthy Soil, Healthy Food, Healthy Community