On February 8, Academics for Land Protection in New England (ALPINE) and the Regional Conservation Partnership (RCP) Network organized their second RCP-ALPINE Regional Conservation Forum. Hosted by Wellesley College, the day-long event brought the Massachusetts RCP and academic communities together to look at past successes and explore future possibilities for collaboration.
Morning presentations highlighted examples RCPs, colleges, and universities working together successfully. Two RCPs and a regional land trust provided multiple examples of how conservation research has broadened their understanding of the communities they serve and informed their approaches to conservation and outreach. They also detailed strategies for working with academic partners to leverage university resources (details provided below).
Of note, presenter Simon Rucker from the High Peaks Initiative described how a simple exchange at the 2017 Maine RCP-ALPINE Regional Conservation Forum with Philip Nyhus, director of the Colby College’s environmental studies program, led to a new collaboration, multiple new research projects, and greater opportunities for student engagement.
The event showed that in addition to providing students the opportunity to work on projects with real-world applications, land trusts can also help researchers share their findings with local communities and encourage more informed decision making.
“The collaborations and partnerships I’ve established with RCPs have really amplified my impact over the landscape,” said Paul Catanzaro, an Extension Associate Professor at UMASS Amherst and a member of the ALPINE steering committee.
Bill Labich, coordinator of the RCP Network and senior conservationist at Highstead, noted that strategic partnerships could provide the opportunity to engage new audiences—such as an RCP-like collaboration between a college, an urban high school, youth development organization, and a regional land trust which could engage younger and more diverse groups in land conservation.
The forum also featured opportunities for participants to engage in small-groups discussions on collaborative activities, challenges to collaboration, and ways to overcome those challenges.
Building on the success of the Maine and Massachusetts forums, ALPINE and the RCP Network plan to organize a forum for the entire region in spring of 2020.
David Foster, Harvard Forest
Foster discussed how Harvard University, Harvard Forest, and Harvard College students have benefited from working with land trusts and RCPs.
Paul Catanzaro, UMASS Amherst
Catanzaro shared his experience collaborating with various RCPs in his teaching, research, and outreach efforts.
Sarah Wells, Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust
Wells discussed how Mount Grace had utilized Paul Catanzaro’s research to change its approach to landowner outreach.
Simon Rucker, High Peaks Initiative
Rucker shared the many ways in which High Peaks Initiative and Colby College have benefited from their continued partnership.
Keri Blood, Kestrel Land Trust
Blood described how Kestrel encourages institutions to conserve lands they have, engages students and faculty in active stewardship, and supports events that connect people to their lands and their communities.