New eBird Training Webinars to Support Landowner and Community Engagement

Highstead, Cornell Ornithology Lab and the Northeast Bird Habitat Conservation Initiative are pleased to announce upcoming eBird training webinars  focused on how Cornell’s eBird tool, an online bird checklist program, can be used to encourage engagement with supporters, the community and landowners.

birding in the northeast
Birding in Vermont. Photo by Archie Bonyun

eBird and Cornell Land Trust Bird Conservation Initiative staff will present interactive workshops demonstrating the power of eBird and how to use eBird science data to support activities such as land acquisition, monitoring, and engagement with landowners, stakeholders, and the birding community. The sessions are designed for Regional Conservation Partnership and land trust leaders who will be taught the basics of eBird so they can lead their own future workshops. Participants will be eligible to apply for mini-grants in 2022 to subsidize the costs of hosting their eBird workshops.

Webinar Dates:

The training will take place in two parts. For the most effective training experience, participants should plan to attend both webinars.

  • June 8 from 1-2:30 pm ET – Webinar #1: The Power of eBird: Using information on birds to Amplify Conservation, Stewardship, and Community Outreach
  • June 15 from 1-2:00 pm ET – Webinar #2: Conservation applications of eBird data and products

Event Speakers

The eBird Training Webinars are hosted by Katie Blake, Conservationist, Highstead, and co-coordinator of the Northeast Bird Habitat Conservation Initiative.

Sara Barker is the program director for the Cornell Land Trust Bird Conservation Initiative. She helps provide strategic planning, resources, technical assistance, planning tools, and funding opportunities to advance the pace and impact of land trust protection and stewardship efforts. She also assists land managers and practitioners in managing habitat for priority bird species and strives to build capacity for the land trust and private lands community around birds.

Jenna Curtis is a project leader for eBird. Jenna’s focus is on communications outreach and engaging with the global eBird community. She prepares informational content for eBird across a variety of public platforms. Jenna also assists with coordinating eBird’s team of volunteer reviewers. Her favorite part of the job is helping others to build skills and develop a deeper appreciation for nature through birds!

Orin Robinson is a research associate in the Center for Avian Population Studies at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The overarching theme of his research is using and developing quantitative tools to make use of large ecological data sets in order to learn about vertebrate population and community ecology. Ultimately, the goal is to apply the lessons learned to vertebrate conservation.

Webinar Preparation

Participants are encouraged to sign up for an eBird account if they do not already have one by visiting and clicking the green “Create Account” button in the upper right corner.

ebird online tool

Participants who already have an account through another project such as Merlin Bird ID, Great Backyard Bird Count, Project Feederwatch, Nestwatch, or Bird Academy can use the same information to log in to eBird.

In preparation for the June 15 webinar, which will focus on eBird data, participants should visit the eBird Status and Trends website to become familiar with what data and tools are available.

The trainings are being supported through a grant from the Sarah K. deCoizart Perpetual Charitable Trust.

Category: Events, News

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People of Highstead: Jesse Hubbard

Highstead would not be what it is today without the steadfast leadership and diverse experiences of its team members. Meet the experts, conservation leaders, scientists, and staff that embody Highstead’s mission to build a healthier, more liveable world for all in our new interview series.

Jesse Hubbard, Grounds and Facilities Coordinator

What is your role?

Jesse: I am the grounds and facilities coordinator and responsible for the general upkeep of the Highstead barn and surrounding landscape. I also provide logistical support for events on-site and participate in some partner-sponsored and hosted activities.

What drew you to Highstead?

Jesse: An interest in horticulture and tree care got me interested in Highstead, and a desire to work around positive people with similar interests was a bonus. With an emphasis on education, research, and outreach, I saw Highstead as an organization I could learn from and grow with, and where I could take pride in my work while knowing that I was doing something to help preserve the natural environment and resources we are all dependent upon.

What are your favorite parts of your job?

Jesse: My job involves a variety of indoor and outdoor work that’s challenging and equally rewarding. I enjoy the outdoor work the most, especially when the weather is nice. In particular, I find fulfillment through planting and pruning, and being on the property every day, witnessing all the wildlife and seasonal changes. I really feel a connection to the land.

Where does your motivation come from?

Jesse: My motivation comes partly from knowing that the work I do locally helps drive conservation on a larger scale. In a simpler form, I find encouragement directly through my work with plants. I enjoy pruning because it is a way to express myself artistically while also utilizing my knowledge to help guide my cuts. As much as I enjoy pruning, it’s also inspiring to see how plants adapt and grow when left to their own devices.

What is the professional accomplishment you are most proud of?

Jesse: Becoming a certified arborist. I have two licenses; one through the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) and the other is a professional certification through the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). Those achievements stick out to me because they represent a time in my life when I really began to understand what I wanted to do professionally and helped guide me to where I am today.

Who are your conservation heroes throughout history and today and why?

Jesse: My grandparents, although not conservationists, were avid birders and active in local groups focused on the environment. If I had to credit anyone for getting me interested in the great outdoors, it would be them. They would almost always be doing something outside, whether gardening, fishing, bird watching, or just taking a walk. They loved to share their experiences with us.

What are some challenges you see facing the conservation and stewardship community in the next ten years?

Jesse: Some challenges I see are:

  • Clean drinking water, finding funding in an economy that’s recovering from the pandemic.
  • Access to green spaces- community health.
  • Invasive plants and pests that change the landscape and affect availability of natural resources.
  • Increasing populations and demand for those resources, coupled with a changing climate and a need to reduce our carbon dependence.

Where is your favorite place to recreate in the Northeast? What makes it special?

Jesse: My family has a cabin and some land in New Hampshire (thanks to my Grandparents), near the White Mountains. I have many fond memories of visiting there over the years. It’s special because of what it lacks: running water and electricity. Staying there for even a few days is a great way to remember how lucky we are to have all the amenities we do. One of my favorite things to do there is to walk the trails around the property. It’s especially charming in the winter because the woods are often quiet enough to hear the snowfall.

What advice would you give to the next generation of conservationists?

Jesse: I think it’s important that we first try to learn their stories when making an appeal to individuals (and groups) outside our own circle. I think by listening and understanding, we have a better chance at finding common ground and achieving success through mutual cooperation.

Category: Stories


A Focus on Wild Nature and Partnership: Jon Leibowitz in VTDigger

In a recent VTDigger Commentary, Jon Leibowitz, Executive Director of the Northeast Wilderness Trust describes New England’s present-day conservation status and makes the urgent case for accelerated protection, restoration, and designation of connected wilderness areas under the current global 30 x 30 effort to conserve 30% of Earth’s terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems by 2030.

While conservation of all types of landscapes is essential, Leibowitz emphasizes the vital roles that forever-wild ecosystems play to keep our planet, including nonhuman and human inhabitants, healthy. 30 x 30’s ambitious science-informed goals present a framework for supporting biodiversity, providing environmental benefits and services like clean air and water, and maximizing carbon emissions storage, all of which require bold and unconventional actions as the planet’s carbon emissions and average temperatures continue to break records.

Liebowitz also points to the unique opportunity and necessity of partnership with underrepresented groups historically excluded from the conservation conversation. The consequences of inaction or misdirected efforts often disproportionately harm the most vulnerable and nature-dependent communities. Land trusts, government entities, and the public all hold essential responsibilities and have distinct roles to play, but we must not continue to operate in a conservation-as-usual fashion, he adds. Fortifying today’s monumental efforts for tomorrow’s future will require diverse leadership and representation at the decision-making table.

Category: Perspectives

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People of Highstead: Katie Blake

Highstead would not be what it is today without the steadfast leadership and diverse experiences of its team members. Meet the experts, conservation leaders, scientists, and staff that embody Highstead’s mission to build a healthier, more liveable world for all in our new interview series.

Katie Blake, Conservationist

What is your role?

Katie: I’m a Conservationist at Highstead, and in this role I support the work of Regional Conservation Partnerships (RCPs) across the Northeast.

What drew you to Highstead?

Katie: I always admired the thoughtful conservation work that came out of Highstead and their leadership through the initiatives they led and supported. Back in 2012, I served as the Coordinator for the MassConn Sustainable Forest Partnership and got to work alongside Bill Labich, who was on the MassConn steering committee at the time. During my time at MassConn, I learned about the Wildlands and Woodlands Vision that guides Highstead’s work and became a regular RCP Gathering attendee. When the Conservationist position opened up in 2019, I jumped at the opportunity!

“There are several entry points into following your dream; you just have to be open to connecting your diverse experiences and background.”

Katie Blake

Where does your motivation come from?

Katie: My motivation comes from a deep-rooted sense of responsibility to be the best advocate I can be for our natural world. While pursuing my undergraduate degree, I began to wonder if I should have followed another more lucrative field. However, during an environmental economics class, I realized that no part of our modern world would exist if we didn’t take care of the place we entirely depended on, yet often take for granted. Our natural world and the resources on which people depend are in no short supply of challenges, and it is these challenges that get me out of bed ready to get to work every day.

What is the professional accomplishment you are most proud of?

Katie: I’m the first generation in my family to go to college and the only person in my extended family to earn a Master’s degree. I’m most proud of the years of hard work, dedication, and the years of piecing together several part-time jobs so that I could pursue my interests in conservation. In my family, it was a luxury to pursue my dream, and one we couldn’t necessarily afford. I grew up in a working-class family and watched my parents work multiple jobs so that we could have the opportunity to go to college one day and make a life for ourselves that was better than what my parents had. My love for the outdoors and wildlife led me to wildlife biology and ultimately conservation. Unlike many of my peers, I couldn’t afford to take unpaid internships, so like my parents, I had to work part-time jobs and find work outside of seasonal fieldwork. I learned to build and rely on the network I was shaping to continue to advance in my career and move toward gainful employment.

Who are your women conservation heroes throughout history and today? Why?

Katie: When I was 18, I got tickets to see Jane Goodall speak as part of an honors class I was taking at a local community college. I didn’t know who Jane Goodall was at the time, so I almost didn’t go to the event. I still remember that when she took the stage, and before saying hello, she pant-hooted like a chimpanzee. I was hooked! I then spent the next five years or so learning everything about her.

What I admire most was that she didn’t have a traditional background in science before Louise Leakey sent her off into the jungle to pioneer the study of chimpanzees. She completely changed how we define ourselves, what it means to be human, and what we knew about our closest kin. I also admire Jane’s dedication to the work and to the bigger vision and the hope she carries for our planet, even though many have worked to discredit her throughout her career. Jane sent me off into this field, and although I ended up chasing after birds, not chimpanzees, I owe her for lighting up this path for me to pursue.

What are some challenges you see facing women in the conservation and stewardship communities in the next 10 years?

Katie: I am so blessed to have found my way to an organization that values a healthy work-life balance. As a new mom, Highstead offered me flexibility in my schedule as I got back to work after maternity leave and currently during the COVID pandemic as my husband and I navigate childcare challenges. My “seat at the table” in the initiatives I lead and projects I participate in is still very much valued even when I’m not always able to be in my seat because I’m balancing work and home.

However, this is not the case for many women and working moms in the conservation field, or in most fields for that matter. I think women will continue to face challenges to advance in their careers while maintaining a work-life balance. Women will continue to face challenges they have for years— earning less than their male counterparts, advancing to leadership positions, facing opposition to their ideas and research, and so on. But, the field of conservation is dominated by women, and it is my hope that as we work to amplify each other’s work, that we also help normalize and support a healthy work-life balance for all people, so we can really make the progress that is needed for our environment.

Do you recommend any books, podcasts, or other resources that have had an impact on your life or work?

Katie: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. I read this during my first year of college and I think it’s an excellent reminder of the overt and covert ways women scientists are attacked, threatened, or discredited in their work. Carson’s book accused powerful chemical companies of widespread environmental degradation due to indiscriminate use of pesticides that we still see the effects of today, particularly how DDT affected bird populations. It’s also a great reminder to me to stick with the challenging work we take on in conservation and trust myself and my work’s integrity, especially in the face of opposition.

Where is your favorite place to recreate in the Northeast? What makes it special?

Katie: One of my favorite places is the Massachusetts coastline. I spent years studying the breeding and post-breeding habits of Common and Roseate Terns, which meant living on remote islands, and spending hours on beaches looking for these birds. I was so plugged into the rhythm of the tides and ecology of the coast, and of course the terns, that to this day, whenever I hear a tern, I am instantly transported back to my time on the beaches in Massachusetts.

What advice would you give to the next generation of conservationists?

Katie: Listen. Listen to those with different perspectives. Listen to what people see and experience in their communities and hear what it is people want and need. Listen to the scientist and non-scientist equally. Listen to your fellow environmental advocates, from those who have just entered the field to those who are readying for retirement. Listen to your partners, especially those outside of the conservation field. While our conservation challenges will require innovative remedies and technologies, the key to developing them and successfully implementing them is to understand. The key to understanding is building transformational relationships with people because we can’t do this alone. It’s going to take everyone.

What advice have you received that has stuck with you?

Katie: Often times, your route to following your dream isn’t a straight line. Because I had to take jobs in between field seasons or make up for a low-paying internship, I often had to find work outside the conservation field. Before graduate school, I needed a longer-term job to help me save, so I took a position as a paralegal for legal aid. I remember feeling like this was a significant detour from my field, and I felt self-conscious about that. My future graduate school advisor helped me see that the skills I was learning in this job were completely transferrable to conservation: problem-solving, building arguments, understanding legal jargon, advocating for those who can’t advocate for themselves, and so on. There are several entry points into following your dream; you just have to be open to connecting your diverse experiences and background.

Category: Stories


New Article Explores The Value of Backyard Climate Solutions

Backyard Climate Solutions. A dog faces away from us toward an open snowy expanse with snow-covered trees.
Photo by Ed Faison

Today, we are witnessing an accelerated climate crisis — extreme and irregular weather, flooding, droughts, wildfires, decreased air quality, often disproportionately harming the most vulnerable communities — which is directly related to the high levels of carbon dioxide we have pumped into the atmosphere. The crisis is making more people ask, “What can I do to make a difference?”

As it turns out, you can start in your backyard.

A new Arnoldia magazine article from Highstead Senior Ecologist Ed Faison details his approach as a residential property owner in implementing stewardship practices that support carbon emission reduction and increase carbon dioxide removal and storage (carbon sequestration). From small lots to large forests, private forest owners own 85% of New England’s forests. Faison presents his residential Connecticut 1.5 acre lot as a case study demonstrating just how trees — even on smaller lots — can factor into significant carbon sequestration.

Considering tree growth is the default vegetation in the Northeastern landscape, property owners have options for managing their vegetation and its potential for carbon storage, all of which balance benefits and drawbacks for human and nonhuman occupants. A healthy mix of management decisions for Faison’s existing forest optimize the ecological benefits of standing trees and deadwood and supports the intricacies of relationships between woodland flora and fauna. Faison details the advantages of reforesting an existing lawn portion, resulting in an estimated twenty-five times more carbon stored than the grass it replaced could store.

On the side of the built environment, tree cover offers additional carbon saving benefits to Faison’s residence. Trees, standing within sixty feet of his house, provide summer cooling and winter insulation, resulting in decreased energy expenditure and reduced carbon emissions.

Finally, while limited in some residential circumstances, the article demonstrates how even small-scale wildlands management offers more climate benefits while doing less — by not removing trees or vegetation at all. Some property owners may consider the particular aesthetic and climate services that accrue from leaving more vegetation intact vs. maintaining a large mown lawn.

More than this, landowners’ voluntary conservation actions (i.e., formally protecting their land with a conservation easement), even on a small scale, expand the total amount of forestland conserved throughout New England and serve as a critical solution for climate change, as outlined in the Wildlands and Woodlands Vision.

Discover the intricacies and collective power of ‘Backyard Climate Solutions’ by Ed Faison in Arnoldia Volume 8, Issue 3.

Category: Stories

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Norwalk Mapping Project Generates New Tool for Cities

Norwalk Urban Conservation Mapping Tool for Cities. A grayscale illustration of two tables and a white board with text: drivers, flood risk, ecology, public health, recreation, equiaty and social factors, connectivity
Illustration by Marc Boudreaux

Conservation mapping models can inform conservation decisions, provide a better understanding of natural resource distribution, and prioritize areas for conservation. The Norwalk Urban Conservation Mapping Project is a new tool developed by the Hudson to Housatonic Regional Conservation Partnership (RCP), the Norwalk Land Trust, and Highstead. The H2H partners focused on the city of Norwalk, Connecticut, as an extension of their initial 2018 Regional Mapping Project, which focused on identifying the areas of highest conservation value in rural and suburban places between the Hudson and Housatonic rivers in New York and Connecticut.

The 2021 project consists of an interactive online map and guide that presents Norwalk, Connecticut, as a case study for strategic mapping in an urban setting. Together, the map and guide broaden the definition of conservation to include additional city-specific forms of environmental health such as quality of urban greenspaces, citizen public health, and environmental justice issues like exposure to environmental hazards and access to open space.

The project’s success depended on outreach and input from more than twenty diverse Norwalk stakeholders and was driven by multiple communities’ priorities. Participation from landowners, city managers, and community organizations provided relevant data points, review, and overall project direction. The process of creating the Norwalk-specific urban mapping model, guide, and interactive map demonstrated the importance of urban conservation actions beyond land protection, like increasing neighborhood tree planting or understanding which communities are most at risk from climate change impacts and would benefit from more green infrastructure investments. 

By evaluating the needs of people and natural spaces side by side, the project’s leaders determined a list of seven environmental and social values called “drivers,” all of which are important to urban conservation. Each driver is described by groups of GIS datasets called “criteria” that make up the map layers:

  1. Human Connectivity (criteria: public transportation, bike paths, walking routes, roads, park access), 
  2. Urban Heat Island (tree canopy, impervious surface cover), 
  3. Equity and Social Factors (% minority, % low-income, % less than high-school education, % under age five), 
  4. Flood Risk (riparian buffers, flood zones, surface and groundwater quality, coastal boundary, inundation frequency), 
  5. Recreation (parks, trail systems, historic landmarks), 
  6. Public Health (asthma, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and obesity rates, mental health, particulate matter concentration, respiratory hazards), 
  7. and Ecological (biodiversity, habitat areas, high-quality shellfish habitat, natural land cover).

These drivers and criteria were then superimposed on a map of Norwalk to highlight areas where there was geographic “co-occurrence” or overlap of significant social, health, or environmental variables. Tool users can view these unique co-occurrence areas on the interactive map to see Norwalk’s priority urban conservation sites. Using the “Action Map” layers, tool users can view similar drivers and data used to produce a map that will guide a specific type of conservation action, such as “Priority Land for Conservation” or “Ensuring Equitable Access to Nature.” 

While the methods and data sources described in the urban conservation mapping project guide were tailored to Norwalk city partner priorities, the project can still serve as an aid or jumping-off point for urban communities and city governments in determining their own urban conservation needs across the H2H region and beyond. In addition, the tool can be helpful in prioritizing urban conservation projects and directing the use of limited resources and funding, identifying new partnerships, enhancing community outreach, increasing fundraising potential, supporting grant applications, and facilitating transparency across environmental, public health, and government sectors. 

The interactive online map and guide are available to the public. Please contact Highstead Conservationist and H2H Coordinator, Katie Blake with any questions or if you have experience in conservation mapping and have best practices or challenges to share.

Category: News

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New England Conservation Finance Roundtable Explores Innovative Solutions

Highstead and The Conservation Finance Network convened leaders from NGOs, companies, foundations, and public agencies at the New England Conservation Finance Roundtable on February 24, 2021.

Hosted and moderated by Spencer Meyer, Senior Conservationist at Highstead, and Leigh Whelpton, Program Director at The Conservation Finance Network, the virtual gathering consisted of three sessions: Clean Water Investment, Natural Climate Solutions, and Healthy People and Communities. Together, the session panelists demonstrated how conservation and finance can align public and private investments to increase the equitable distribution of land conservation and stewardship benefits like clean air, clean water, public health, access to the outdoors, and climate change mitigation.

Over 200 attendees representing land trusts, public agencies, the private sector, NGOs, foundations, and academic institutions participated in the virtual session.

“We need to evolve as a community of conservationists because the environmental, social, and economic triple bottom line is really the only bottom line that matters in the long run.”

Spencer Meyer, Highstead

Clean Water Investments

Hadley Courad, the Conservation Coordinator at Sebago Clean Waters, led the day’s first session on how partnerships between communities, landowners, utilities, and conservation groups are delivering clean water and positive outcomes.

A Sebago Clean Waters collaborator, Portland Water District’s Executive Director of Administration, David Kane, shared how their Watershed Protection Program supports land and water conservation to maintain high water quality and provide water to its customers without additional and costly filtration.

Water Investment Project Developer Celia Riechal represented the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. Celia discussed how the state uses its state revolving funds for funding natural infrastructure projects, like interim financing and the WISPr-Water Infrastructure Sponsorship Program, which pairs traditional municipal works projects with natural infrastructure projects. She concluded her presentation with the Vermont Farmland Futures Fund Initiative that provides stable long term financing for the Vermont Land Trust that enables them to minimize borrowing costs and realize their vision for sustainable farmland and diversified agricultural practices.

Ashley Allen Jones, Founder and CEO of i2 Capital, concluded the session with a presentation on the Brandywine-Christina Healthy Water Fund, the first Revolving Water Fund (RWF) in the United States. Ashley described how the RWF is a conservation finance model that quantifies and transfers water quality outcomes from investment in agricultural conservation practices to regulatory compliance, corporations, and other buyers to capture the economic benefits of conservation.

Natural Climate Solutions

Kavita Kapur Macleod, Principal, KKM Environmental Consulting, introduced the second session on the conservation community’s financial opportunities in the carbon markets and implementation projects.

Sacha Spector, Program Director for the Environment, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF), described DDCF’s investment in organizations that fund natural climate solutions programs through compliance and voluntary market mechanisms, new private platforms, and public dollars. Sacha emphasized the importance of experimentation,

“At the end of the day, corporations might be driving an enormous demand, but the atmosphere is a fierce critic. And whatever the atmosphere sees is the final arbiter on whether a (carbon) credit is a real thing or not.”

Sacha Spector, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

Karen Watts, Principal Product Manager, Worldwide Sustainability, Amazon, followed with a presentation on The Climate Pledge, Amazon’s commitment for its companies to be net-zero carbon by 2040. She concluded her presentation by sharing Amazon’s $100M Right Now Climate Fund’s first initiative to support sustainable forestry in the Appalachian Mountains by connecting forest landowners to the carbon market.

Josh Parrish, Director, American Forest Carbon Initiative, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), talked about the critical yet untapped conservation and carbon market potential of family forests and how TNC and the American Forest Foundation launched the Family Forest Carbon Program to support family forest owners’ carbon market participation. TNC and AFF manage the carbon verification and financial administration side, while family forest owners receive compensation to apply carbon-friendly land management practices.

Healthy People and Communities

The final session moderator, Sean Thackurdeen, Program Associate, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, led a discussion on how conservation and finance partnerships between housing, healthcare, and open space can support healthier people and communities.

Bobby Cochran, Partner, Willamette Partnership, described the fundamental link between the outdoors and personal health and well-being and how progress depends on working partnerships between champions for health and champions for the outdoors that emphasize and promote equity.

Lori Coyner, State Medicaid Director, Oregon Health Authority, followed with a presentation on the state’s systems thinking approach to health care and how more partnerships and examples on how environmental conservation, the outdoors, and health improvement can leverage health dollars. She shared information on the state’s strategic goal to eliminate health inequities in 10 years, and how that ultimately involves leaders in Medicaid, housing, and environmental conservation to come together to find equitable solutions that improve social determinants to health in addition to redistributing decision making power to communities.

Shante Hanks, Deputy Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Housing spoke about two significant department efforts to apply awarded funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s National Disaster Resilience Competition toward climate change mitigation and storm surge in the city of Bridgeport. The Flood Risk Prevention Project consists of a coastal flood defense system to provide protection to coastal communities and at-risk historic resources properties. Hanks emphasized the importance of being an active partner and including the community—not just landowners—throughout the planning and implementation process. The second part, Rebuild by Design, is a pilot project that seeks to elevate streets, build waterfront protection, and establish breakwaters to reduce risk to public housing in Bridgeport’s South End.

The final presentation was given by Maggie Church, Vice President, Healthy and Resilient Communities, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF). She shared information on CLF’s first iteration of the Healthy Neighborhoods Equity Fund, a partnership with the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation that brings new sources of capital to mixed-use and mixed-income real estate projects that have the greatest potential to provide better community health and environmental outcomes. The second fund is an expanded $50M private equity fund with potential to reach projects in Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Church elaborated,

We can’t separate housing and conservation and communities if we’re really trying to solve the complex interrelated problems that we’ve been talking about. On that note for example in Massachusetts, housing and transportation combined are the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions and housing and transportation constitute the core infrastructure of the neighborhoods we live and work through and you know, the places we either thrive or don’t. So we really have to think about all these issues together whether we come at it from an environmental perspective or a housing perspective.”

Maggie Church, Conservation Law Foundation

The roundtable concluded with breakout sessions and closing remarks from Leigh Whelpton and Spencer Meyer. Meyer and Whelpton shared their highlights from each session and called on the participants to look for their own unique partnership to advance their work. They proposed more regular Roundtables and informal collaborations to build a regional community of practice for sharing lessons and incubating new ideas of how to advance conservation for the many benefits to people and nature.


Clean Water Investments

Healthy People & Communities

Category: Events

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Sebago Clean Waters and Lone Pine Brewing Launch the 1% For the Waters Initiative

Securing funding and public support for land conservation can be a challenge, requiring innovative thinking and unlikely alliances. Sebago Clean Waters (SCW), a collaborative of nine organizations, including Highstead, has employed these tactics to great effect recently. By partnering with several businesses that recognize that clean water is essential to their success and the well-being of their communities, SCW has raised additional funds and increased awareness of its mission to protect the vital Sebago Lake watershed in Maine. 

The most recent of these partnerships is with Portland’s Lone Pine Brewing Company. In February, Lone Pine announced its 1% For the Waters initiative alongside the launch of a new craft seltzer line. The brewery pledges a contribution of one percent of the sales of every 4- and 12-pack of craft seltzer sold toward SCW’s efforts to protect the Sebago Lake watershed. This latest collaboration bolsters initial investments for Sebago-area conservation and will support improved and sustained access to clean water.

SCW works with landowners, communities, and businesses to raise awareness about and increase the pace of protection for the forestlands that filter and sustain the water supply for 1 in 6 Mainers, more than 200,000 people. Sebago Lake is one of only 50 public surface water supplies in the country that is so clean it doesn’t need to be filtered before treatment. The watershed encompasses 234,000 acres of forest and waterways that are increasingly threatened by development pressure. These forestlands and freshwater resources provide myriad environmental and community benefits, including clean water, wildlife habitat, stormwater management, outdoor recreation spaces, and natural resources jobs. Only 11% of the watershed is currently conserved. SCW’s goal is to conserve an additional 35,000 acres of land in the Sebago watershed by 2036 and raise $18.5 million to support the effort.

Spencer Meyer, Senior Conservationist at Highstead and co-founder of Sebago Clean Waters, remarked “The clean water that flows from the forests in the Sebago Lake region not only provides clean drinking water for many Mainers, but also is a key ingredient for so many businesses. We are thrilled to partner with Lone Pine Brewing to help ensure future generations of Mainers will still be able to tap the forests for their water.”

Photo Credit: Stacey Cramp, Sebago Clean Waters

Lone Pine’s sugar-free, gluten-free, and low-calorie craft seltzers come in 4 packs of the Oh-J flavor. Variety 12 packs made up of four different flavors will be available this Friday, March 5, 2021, to go at Lone Pine Brewing’s Portland and Gorham tasting rooms and available at Maine retailers and neighboring states in the coming weeks. Visit the Lone Pine Brewing (@lonepinebrewing) or Sebago Clean Waters (@sebagocleanwaters) Instagram and Facebook profiles for more information.

Category: News

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New Grant Will Boost Northeast Bird Conservation

A bobolink bird with black and white feathers and a yellow cap perches on a green bushy plant.
Photo Credit: Allan Strong, Mass Audubon

Northeast Bird Habitat Conservation Initiative (NBHCI) co-coordinator, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, recently received a Sarah K. deCoizart Perpetual Charitable Trust grant to accelerate bird conservation on private lands in the Northeast. The award supports the initiative’s core objectives by providing $125,000 for regional conservation projects over two years. 

The grant will be used to support a series of projects being carried out by NBHCI partners, including members of the Regional Conservation Partnership (RCP) Network – 54 networks of organizations working toward collaborative landscape protection in New England.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the Northeast Bird Habitat Conservation Initiative, as it meets the overall initiative goal: to help the RCP Network connect with bird conservation in ways that advance and expand their efforts, their partnerships, and ecological priorities.” said Katie Blake, Conservationist at the Highstead Foundation and co-leader of the Northeast Bird Habitat Conservation Initiative. “We are hoping these projects will demonstrate regional conservation as a way to approach landscape-scale protection that will benefit birds, people, and the environment.”

“We are hoping these projects will demonstrate regional conservation as a way to approach landscape-scale protection that will benefit birds, people, and the environment.”

Katie Blake, Highstead Foundation

Katie collaborated with NBHCI co-lead Sara Barker of the Cornell Land Trust Bird Conservation Initiative to provide an RCP perspective to the grant proposal. This grant allows the NBHCI to demonstrate the value of expanding private land conservation efforts through diverse partnerships with landowners, Audubon groups, and RCPs.

Activities supported by this grant include:

The Ag Allies program in Maine and Mass Audubon’s Bobolink project will provide landowners and farmers with incentive payments to offset the cost of bird-friendly management changes, funding for grassland restoration, and technical expertise to incorporate bird conservation into holistic farming practices. Through outreach, workshops, and the development of educational materials for landowners, these partners will help build landowner awareness about the benefits of restorative grassland practices for birds.

Audobon Vermont will produce a bird-friendly forestry webinar series for RCPs to learn how to integrate best practices in silviculture and forestry management for New England birds. Building on this webinar series, Audubon Vermont will implement sustainable management practices for Wood Thrush and Black-throated Blue Warblers, creating a bird-friendly maple and forestry demonstration site within the Cold Hollow to Canada RCP.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology will develop and host an eBird workshop for RCP leaders focused on landowner engagement and using eBird science data for conservation planning and prioritization. RCP leaders will be eligible to apply for mini-grants to run eBird workshops for their respective partnerships after the first year of training, creating an RCP eBird ambassador network.

Please contact Katie Blake, Conservationist, for more information on the Northeast Bird Conservation Initiative.

Category: News


New Funding Available to Preserve Appalachian Landscapes

The Open Space Institute has announced the launch of the Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund and the inaugural Request for Proposals for the Fund. Eligible organizations are encouraged to submit proposals for capital grants through April 14, 2021.

To learn more, please register for the Applicant Webinar March 8,
from 1:00 pm – 3 pm.

The Fund, created with a seed grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, will support the purchase of land and conservation easements in key focus areas of the Appalachian Mountain region that facilitate wildlife adaption to climate change and forest carbon uptake. The Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund seeks to protect 50,000 acres in the focus areas, which contain some of the nation’s most at-risk, biologically rich, and climate-resilient landscapes that also store and sequester massive amounts of carbon.

The Fund, building on a growing movement to increase awareness and use of nature-based solutions to combat climate change, follows OSI’s Resilient Landscape Initiative, which advanced climate resilience through land protection, education and training efforts.

OSI is committed to advancing justice and equity in its grantmaking and in supporting organizations that identify as Black, Indigenous or People of Color-led with reduced grant match requirements. According to OSI, “As we are learning alongside our grantees, we are also asking all applicants to reflect on equity and justice in their organizations and projects. While we are not evaluating proposals against responses to these questions in this initial round, we are interested in your insights as we determine how best to integrate equity into our programs and project evaluation in future grant rounds.”

To complement the capital grant efforts, OSI’s Catalyst Program will work in partnership with states, local communities, Tribes, and land trusts to integrate climate science in conservation plans and reduce climate risks for communities disproportionately affected by flooding and other climate-induced threats. The work will also support emerging efforts to utilize land protection and stewardship to achieve successful carbon storage. Available Catalyst Program resources will be announced in the coming months.

Category: News

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