Courtesy W&WThe New England Conservation Imperative

New England is in a remarkable time of challenge, transition – and opportunity. The region has extraordinary natural resources that are invaluable to both wildlife and people. Our 33 million acres of forests and other natural habitats clean our water, shelter our rich array of biodiversity, provide flood resilience during severe weather events, and mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration and storage. These lands also provide billions of dollars to the regional economy from tourism, recreation, and forest management, and provide local communities with healthy outdoor recreation, local wood, fuel, jobs, and more. These lands represent the natural infrastructure we cannot live without.  We must protect New England’s vital natural heritage to sustain us today and the many generations that follow.

The ecological fabric of the region is under attack from the dual threats of increasing development and global warming. Although New England is the most forested region in the country, it is also facing some of the most severe development pressures as part of the highly populated Northeast. The 2010 report, Wildlands and Woodlands: A Vision for New England, (W&W) documented that every state in the region is now losing forested habitat on a net annual basis and called for doubling the current pace of conservation to reverse this trend. The Nature Conservancy and many leading scientists have also called for conserving climate-resilient land, core habitats, and regional connectivity in order to provide the best chance of withstanding the unpredictable changes ahead.

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 protect larger landscapes and whole ecological systems.  These longer term collaborations often included town leaders, state and federal agencies, academic institutions, conservation organizations, and others. Using tools like geographic information systems 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 39, covering more than 60 percent of our regional landscape.  This innovative form of conservation—collaborative, 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.

For further information:

RCP Network website

RCP Network Map

The Regional Conservation Partnership Innovation Fund

The Cox Trust is launching the Regional Conservation Partnership Innovation Fund to support Regional Conservation Partnerships (RCPs) and the collaborative conservation that they are achieving across an increasing percentage of the New England landscape. These partnerships are uniquely positioned to accelerate land conservation efforts across the region. With sufficient funding for capacity building and land conservation transactions, we believe this innovative new form of conservation will play a major role in conserving the natural heritage of New England. The RCP Innovation Fund will invest $1 million in RCP conservation and capacity from 2015 – 2017.

The focus of the Cox Trust Environmental Program has always been conservation of the rich natural heritage of New England and the RCP Innovation Fund is no exception. The two associated grant programs focus on conservation of “ecologically significant lands,” which we define for purposes of this program as follows:

Ecologically significant lands are lands that 1) are identified in the RCP’s conservation plan/map as natural resource protection priorities (generally the focal areas); and/or 2) lands that contribute to the long-term ecological health and integrity of the RCP region, including but not limited to: large undisturbed core areas; lands that provide habitat connectivity or buffer existing protected lands; watershed protection lands, places of special ecological significance (e.g., rare plants or animals, old growth, significant natural communities); migration corridors, trail corridors and other natural areas of recreational  / educational / cultural / scientific importance; and lands that are likely to prove resilient to climate change or to mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration and storage or flood control.

The Cox Trust believes that we must dramatically increase the pace and scale of New England conservation and that Regional Conservation Partnerships (RCPs) represent an important strategy to accomplish this goal. There are two grant programs associated with this three-year initiative:

Program Overview: 

1. The RCP Innovation Grant Program will provide grants of up to $20,000 to increase the capacity of eligible RCPs to achieve effective and enduring conservation of ecologically significant lands.

 2.  The RCP Donated Land and Easement Grant Program will provide grants of up to $100,000 to help eligible RCPs implement a competitive grants program. Each grant program will then cover the transaction costs associated with the donation of conservation easement and fee simple lands in RCP conservation plan focal areas.


Eligibility requirements are very specific; please read them thoroughly here before applying to either program.  Grantees may reapply to either program during the three-year period of this initiative.  Applicants are generally not encouraged to apply to both programs at the same time, and should discuss in advance with the Program Officer before doing so.


RCP Innovation Grant Program:

Grant proposals are due by 6 pm on February 1, 2016.  There is no pre-proposal requirement.

Donated Land and Easement Grant Program:

Pre-proposals are due by 6 pm on December 1, 2015. Full proposals will be by invitation only and will be due by 6 pm on February 1st, 2016.

Full Program Descriptions

Please see complete grant program descriptions here:

RCP Innovation Grant Program

RCP Donated Land and Easement Grant Program

To Apply:

Please note that all Applicants must use our online application form.

Apply for an RCP Innovation Grant here.

       ACCESS CODE :  “innovation”

Pre-apply for an RCP Donated Land and Easement Grant here.

       ACCESS CODE:  “easement”


Prentice Zinn, Program Officer

Phil Cappello, Foundation Assistant


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