The RCP Network - Overview

People across the region are banding together in Regional Conservation Partnerships (RCPs) to increase the pace and scale of land protection. This is the exciting new face of conservation in New England, and beyond.

What are RCPs?

RCPs are generally informal yet organized networks of people representing private and public organizations and agencies who work together to develop and implement a shared, long-term conservation vision across town and sometimes state and international boundaries.

Check out our interactive map of RCPs.  You may need to download Microsoft’s Silverlight 5.  This is a free plug-in that can be downloaded here.

The Back Story:
Maria Janowiak, climate change adaptation and carbon management scientist at the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science presents at a workshop entitled "Conservation in a Changing Climate".Maria Janowiak, climate change adaptation and carbon management scientist at the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science presents at a workshop entitled “Conservation in a Changing Climate”.RCP coordinators voiced interest in forming an ongoing network at the 2011 RCP Gathering, and in having Highstead serve as convener and provide coordination capacity. The RCP Network was launched in March 2012 and for the next three years, Highstead staff surveyed RCPs twice, developed educational materials (e.g. RCP Handbook), and collaborated with regional partners like OSI, NALCC, and Jessie B. Cox Trust to train and fund RCPs’ use of innovative practices to overcome challenges and move more quickly towards protecting land from development at a scale beyond what partners could do on their own.
In early 2015, RCP Network members with Highstead serving as convener, formed its first steering committee whose members led efforts to craft a shared mission, goals, and priority objectives.

The Role of Regional Conservation Partnerships (RCPs)

More than 80 percent of New England is in private hands, much of it in small family ownerships. New England launched the original land trust movement as an effective strategy primarily to help local residents and landowners conserve individual parcels of land. As ecological awareness grew, land trust/agency partnerships emerged to protect larger or connected parcels. In the 1990s, land trusts started establishing ongoing collaborations to move beyond “random acts of conservation” and to protect larger landscapes including watersheds. These longer term collaborations often included town leaders, state and federal agencies, academic institutions, conservation organizations, and others. Using tools like geographic information systems (GIS) and raising dollars together, they moved beyond opportunism to achieve effective land protection of whole landscapes based on shared, strategic, and long-term conservation priorities.

Today we call these conservation collaboratives Regional Conservation Partnerships (RCPs). In the 1990s, there were four RCPs in New England and today there are 43 (including three in New York), covering more than 60 percent of our regional landscape. This innovative form of conservation — collaborative, often enduring, locally grounded, and regionally effective — is an imperative conservation strategy for New England and indeed beyond.


RCPs in New England are at the forefront of how conservation needs to be, and is going to be, done nationally and globally: across organizations, across sectors, across disciplines, through networks. RCPs are the future: whole system collaborative conservation and collective impact.”  Dr. Gary Tabor, Director of the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, Bozeman, Montana.