At a special event, Academics for Land Protection in New England (ALPINE), along with Wildlands and Woodlands partners Harvard Forest, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and Highstead Foundation, recognized the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst) with the Charles H.W. Foster Award for Academic Leadership in Land Conservation.

The event also honored the high-impact career of longtime UMass Professor and Extension Forester David Kittredge, who for over 20 years was a Forest Policy Analyst at Harvard Forest, and continues to be a research collaborator and part of the Wildlands and Woodlands steering committee.

The event’s keynote speaker was Massachusetts Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen A. Theoharides. The Secretary extolled UMass’s many contributions to conservation, especially its role in “bringing people together to protect special places.” She explained, “Land conservation only works when all the people who have a stake in it can come together around the table. I can’t think of a more apt example than UMass of how to convene those conversations and to bring science to bear on the process.”

UMass Amherst Deputy Chancellor Steven Goodwin accepted the award on behalf of the university, calling it “a very proud moment for the university.”

ALPINE, a collaborative network of 40 academic institutions, selected the university for the award “for its exemplary leadership in the field of land conservation in the region,” said James Levitt in introducing the event. Levitt is the Director of the Program on Conservation Innovation at Harvard Forest, manages the Lincoln Institute’s land conservation programs, and is ALPINE’s director.

Levitt added, “With the award ceremony held today, we celebrate the achievements of the University to date, and the remarkable career of Professor David Kittredge, who has been instrumental in shaping the university’s conservation efforts. We also celebrate the promise shown by future generations now being trained at the university and reached through the campus’s extension programs to effectively address the profound conservation challenges which the citizens of Massachusetts will continue to face in this era of climate change.”

During the event, Levitt also addressed former congressman and UMass professor John Olver, who was in attendance, calling him “an exceptional champion of land conservation and environmental stewardship.”

Levitt hailed the day’s honoree, David Kittredge, for founding the Massachusetts Keystone Project, a workshop held annually at Harvard Forest to promote forest conservation. Since 1988, the Keystone (formerly Coverts) Project has trained hundreds of community leaders in Massachusetts, who as a result of the training have gone on to volunteer hundreds of thousands of hours to conservation in the commonwealth.

Other guests in attendance who were recognized for their conservation accomplishments were UMass Amherst alumni and students, including Gary Clayton, president of Mass Audubon; Jane Difley, president of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests; Leigh Youngblood, executive director of the Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust; and Keith Ross, senior advisor at LandVest in the North Quabbin region.

The Charles H.W. Foster award is named in memory of the late Harvard professor Charles “Hank” Foster, a longtime collaborator and and advisor to the Harvard Forest, as well as the first Secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, a former dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and the first paid executive director of The Nature Conservancy.

ALPINE gave its first C.W. Foster award to Middlebury College in 2015 to recognize its investment of an alumni gift to protect its 2,100-acre Bread Loaf Campus, a forest and center for creative writing.