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Sustainable Working Landscapes Program

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The Sustainable Working Landscapes program promotes community-based research to support a bold vision of conservation and stewardship of forest and farm lands in New England. Wildlands & Woodlands: A Vision for the New England Landscape (Harvard Forest, 2017) proposes that over the next half century a remarkable 85% of the region remain in forests and farms, while at the same time doubling sustainable wood production and tripling food production.

Tractor in Field


This vision calls for active stewardship and productive use of most of the region's landscape (alongside expansive wild reserves), engaging as many people as possible with the land. Increased harvesting of food and wood on conserved private and public land raises exciting opportunities, but also a host of complex challenges. Can we farm, log, and hunt on land that is often intermixed with residential development in ways that also promote ecological benefits such as biodiversity, water quality, and carbon sequestration?


The Sustainable Working Landscapes program is developing a research "tool kit" to help conservation landowners across New England address these challenges. We are also promoting this active conservation philosophy through workshops, conferences, and publications.

The program works at the community level, helping inform the most difficult and sometimes contentious stewardship decisions that conservation landowners have to make:

  • whether to conduct sustainable forestry in woodlands where people love to walk, 
  • how to expand agricultural production without sacrificing wildlife values, 
  • whether to allow bow hunting of deer, 
  • how to combat invasive pests. 

SWL research is designed to engage local residents and schools as citizen scientists, building support for conservation and stewardship.


SWL has established model research programs on conservation lands in Weston, Massachusetts, and in Walden Woods in Concord and Lincoln, MA, which are detailed on this web site. Our hope is that they are both useful to residents and visitors to these places, and helpful for others to design similar programs. We are collaborating at other sites across New England and are happy to help set up projects and build a broader network.

The Sustainable Working Landscapes program has been supported since 2009 with generous grants from the Baker Foundation, the Tides Foundation, the Lookout Foundation, the Henry David Thoreau Foundation, and Highstead.