Land Trust Case Studies

Conserving the St. George River Watershed

For 17 years, the Georges River Land Trust operated without a conservation plan and conserved an average of 50 acres per year. Working with Beginning with Habitat changed that: the Trust now conserves 200 acres annually, and 70 percent of that is high-value habitat.

When the Trust began working with Beginning with Habitat, it wanted to create a strategic plan that would focus its efforts on conserving the highest-priority natural resources, for great and lasting public benefits, of the 225 square-mile St. George River watershed. This is a unique area of mountains, seacoast, lakes, tidal streams and inlets extending from Montville to Muscongus Bay. The Trust had opportunities to protect a variety of important features, including high-value plant and wildlife habitats, natural communities and wetlands, major tributaries, linkages between significant habitat areas, large undeveloped blocks, working landscapes, and areas of traditional public access.

What would be the best plan? Beginning with Habitat offered the tools needed to find out, including the most comprehensive statewide natural resource information and a landscape-scale approach to analyzing natural resource values. This enabled the Trust to decide what was most important to consider in the watershed. Once priority sites were identified, the Trust then hired a consulting biologist to conduct field research in specific areas.

Ultimately, the Trust designated nine focus areas where it now concentrates land conservation efforts. For each area, it also developed maps and narratives that describe and illustrate its value and importance to the region—information that has proved helpful in promoting the Trust’s efforts with funders and other conservation partners. The Trust leveraged the data and expertise that Beginning with Habitat provided to vastly increase both the quality and quantity of the lands it protects. It is now better fulfilling its mission “to conserve and steward the natural resources and traditional character” of the St. George River region for future generations.