The Cox Trust’s portfolio of investments have focused on building mutually supportive systems of emerging ideas, organizations, and leaders that have come to define the modern environmental movement in New England. In its final initiative, building Regional Conservation Partnerships, the Trust worked with experts to develop an ambitious effort to change land conservation methods and protect the region’s unique landscape, biodiversity, and wilderness.

Advancing the Land Trust Movement

The history of the Cox Trust coincides with the birth and dramatic growth of the land trust movement. Over the life of the Trust, New England saw a fourfold increase in the rate of land protection. The region is now home to an astonishing 465 citizen-led land trusts.

In the early years, the Cox Trust helped support a wide range of successful experiments in land conservation and habitat protection that are now common practice. As land trusts and land conservation organizations matured, the Cox Trust invested heavily in collaborative approaches to conservation. The increase in collaboration among conservation organizations has encouraged ambitious conservation targets that will lead to the protection of thousands of acres.

Regional Conservation Partnerships

The rapid increase of Regional Conservation Partnerships (RCPs) in New England presented a perfect opportunity to promote the structures and tools of collaborative conservation. RCPs are coalitions of conservation organizations and other interested groups that join together to conserve land and habitat at a larger scale.

A vibrant network of nearly 50 RCPs in New England has shown that these partnerships are platforms of innovation and dynamic attractors of new ideas, leadership, and resources. Most importantly, they have the capacity to work at a large scale, bridging political and geographic boundaries and mobilizing diverse interest groups to take action and protect habitats.

In partnership with Highstead Foundation, the Cox Trust committed $1 million over three years to support two aligned funding programs which were designed to accelerate the development of Regional Conservation Partnerships throughout the region.

The Donated Land and Easement Grant program offered grants of $100,000 to RCPs to help cover transaction costs. Because these costs are often an obstacle to donations, these grants gave landowners an incentive to donate conservation easements and property to the RCPs’ member organizations. Read more about the program in Beyond Habitat: Lessons from the Transaction Fund Grants.

The Innovation Grant Program offered grants of $20,000 to RCPs to help them implement projects that would increase their capacity to conserve land. These grants supported costs to develop conservation priority plans, strategic action plans, landowner outreach projects, and capital campaigns. Both funding programs were guided by a committee of expert advisors with experience in large landscape conservation. The funding initiative has helped build the capacity of RCPs, pilot new approaches and tools for land conservation, and support RCPs to increase the pace of conservation in the region.



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