Photo by James O’Connor
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 26, 2022
Follow the Forest: A Conservation Initiative Uniting Partners Across the Northeast
New film tells the story of how forest linkages support climate resilience and wildlife migration
The Housatonic Valley Association (HVA) debuted a short film on January 14th introducing Follow the Forest, a conservation partnership with nearly 50 partners spanning CT, MA, NY, and VT.
Made possible by funding from the John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation, Appalachian Trail Conservancy Wild East Action Fund, and Louis and Elaine Hecht, the film was created by New York-based cinematographer, editor, and producer James O’Connor and can be viewed on HVA’s website and social media accounts. The film’s release was paired with live Instagram interviews featuring O’Conner and HVA’s Regional Conservation Director Tim Abbott who both offered insight about the film’s message and artistic direction.
Follow the Forest is a landscape-scale vision that seeks to protect and connect forested areas, enabling wildlife to move freely between them according to their migratory needs and in response to the changing climate. A true collaborative effort, it builds on landscape-connectivity work conducted by The Nature Conservancy, HVA, and partners in multiple states, and indicates a need to conserve about 250,000 additional acres of large core forest from the Hudson Valley to Canada – one of the most significant wildlife habitat corridors in the eastern United States.
The film tells the emotional, compelling story of why this extraordinary resource must be secure for the future ecological health and resilience of all living things.
Given the project’s large-landscape scale, it may not be apparent how acutely its success depends on hyper-local, coordinated efforts by many advocates working together within their own towns and neighborhoods. Manmade barriers like roads, buildings, and power lines add to existing natural features like cliffs and large waterbodies to impede wildlife crossings between forest safe havens. Careful attention to municipal planning and zoning, management of privately-owned land, and strategic protection of undeveloped land can ensure that forests and connections among them remain intact, supporting a healthy ecosystem.
“Follow the Forest is a big idea and one that we can only achieve together,” said Abbot. “When we do, we all benefit because large, forested areas are also what we need to have clean drinking water, clear air, and places for recreation and respite away from the built environment.”
Follow the Forest has made significant strides in Northwest Connecticut where it has been embraced by partners in the Litchfield Hills Greenprint Collaborative, a network of 33 conservation organizations. In April 2021, public and private partners helped the State of Connecticut protect 627 acres of exemplary forest, field, and wetland habitats off Beech Hill Road in Goshen.
HVA is now teaming up with land trust volunteers and high school students to assess the viability of connections between forest areas. “We had a great volunteer day assessing wildlife habitat linkages,” said Anne Westerman, a longtime volunteer at the Flanders Nature Center and Land Trust in Woodbury. “Follow the Forest is an important tool that can help us set and achieve conservation goals by building a groundswell of local support.”
Municipalities are also increasingly using Follow the Forest’s mapping tools in planning decisions and to set goals for open space protection within their Plans of Conservation and Development.
Even individual residents have a part to play in Follow the Forest. Being aware of forest land near their home and paying attention to how wildlife pass through or use their property can guide the siting of buildings and fences and inform landscaping to allow protective cover for crossing wildlife.
There are also many opportunities for anyone who wants to become more involved. “We always need volunteers to help with linkage assessments,” Abbott said. “Visit our website to learn more about what we’re up to, sign up for updates, and follow us on social media. Visit your local land trust and see how this plays out your town. We all have a part to play in this effort.”
About Follow the Forest
Follow the Forest (FTF) is an initiative that protects and connects large, forested areas and promotes the safe passage of wildlife from the Hudson Valley to Canada. Its nearly 50 partners across this large northeast corridor invite you to join this critical work. Learn more at followtheforest.org.
About Housatonic Valley Association
HVA is uniquely committed to achieving climate resilience and environmental health across the entire Housatonic River watershed, for this and future generations. HVA works with key partners to restore and protect lands, waters, and wildlife. Spanning just under 2,000 square miles, the Housatonic watershed stretches from the Berkshires in western Massachusetts and the Taconics in eastern New York through western Connecticut and south to Long Island Sound. Learn more at hvatoday.org.
Contact: Kelley Hall, Communications & Engagement Manager