On June 14, Academics for Land Protection in New England (ALPINE) and the Regional Conservation Partnership (RCP) Network brought together faculty and staff from Maine colleges and universities and leaders of Maine RCPs at Colby College in Waterville, ME, to discuss opportunities for collaboration.
For years, both ALPINE and the RCP Network have viewed one another as key partners in their shared missions of catalyzing conservation across New England and eastern New York. The Maine Regional Conservation Forum offered the chance for major players in land protection across that state to strengthen connections with staff and faculty of neighboring academic institutions. It also offered an opportunity for ALPINE and RCP participants to identify concrete actions for advancing land protection within their shared landscape.
Following brief presentations showcasing the current activities of select Maine RCPs and ALPINE institutions, participants broke into small groups to explore interest in future cooperation.
Philip Nyhus, Director of the Environmental Studies program at Colby, noted that academic institutions can facilitate access to technologies, equipment, and technical expertise that could help address big questions that RCPs identify.
Participants from both networks recognized the potential for meaningful student engagement surrounding conservation within the region, whether through summer internship programs, service learning projects, or coursework.
“We are fortunate in New England to have a high concentration of lands protected by the public, private and non-profit sectors as well as a high concentration of colleges, universities and independent research institutions,” says James Levitt, Director of the Program on Conservation Innovation at Harvard Forest. “The collaboration of RCP and ALPINE participants demonstrates that we can take the sustainability initiatives of higher education institutions beyond improving energy efficiency and investment in renewable energy to also focus on the protection of lands that sustain our institutions with food, wood products, clean water, and treasured recreational opportunities. Students, faculty, staff, and alumni can all play a role in bringing sustainability and conservation initiatives to a new level.”
Bill Labich, Senior Conservationist at Highstead, Coordinator of the RCP Network, suggested that ALPINE might also play a role in supporting sub-regional large landscape initiatives that involve multiple RCPs, such as the Northern Appalachian Trail Landscape Partnership. The day concluded with pledges of continued engagement and plans to follow up on several initiatives.
Nyhus, Levitt, and Labich are members of the ALPINE steering committee and organized the forum along with ALPINE Coordinator Marianne Jorgensen. Following the success of the Maine Forum, ALPINE and the RCP Network plan to convene similar gatherings in other New England states.