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Keystone Conservation Leaders Trained at Harvard Forest

May 1, 2015
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Keystone Project class of 2015

More than 450 Massachusetts community members have completed the 3-day training workshop for the Keystone Project, held each spring at the Harvard Forest. This month, a class of 24 joined their ranks.

In ecology, a keystone species is one whose impacts on its environment are larger and greater than would be expected from one species. The Keystone Project invests education and reference materials in "keystone" community members who can make a large impact at the local level. The training covers forest ecology and management, wildlife management, land protection, and community outreach. In exchange for the training and take-home resources, graduates of the program -- called Cooperators -- agree to return to their communities and volunteer at least 30 hours of their time towards projects that promote forest and wildlife conservation. 

Over the past 25 years, the Keystone Project has trained over 450 community opinion leaders and landowners, who have collectively volunteered over 37,125 hours to conservation-related activities - the equivalent of 18 full-time conservation positions. They have reached 12,669 people and made 1,419 referrals to foresters, land trusts and other resources. Cooperators reported owning or being involved in the management decisions on 89,329 acres of land.

More than three-fourths of all the woodland in Massachusetts is owned by thousands of private families and individuals. Much of this land is at risk of conversion to developed uses. Programs like Keystone bring woodland owners and communities the skills and information to make a difference at the local level.

The Keystone Project is organized by the University of Massachusetts Department of Environmental Conservation and UMass Extension, with funding support from the Harvard Forest, Mass. DCR, and the Mass. Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

(Photo by David Kittredge)

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