Academics for Land Protection in New England (ALPINE), a land conservation network based at the Harvard Forest, Harvard University, presented the Charles H.W. Foster Award for Exemplary Academic Leadership in Land Conservation to Middlebury College on February 22, 2016. The award recognized the college’s protection of its 2,100-acre Bread Loaf Campus in Vermont, and honors Charles H.W. Foster, the distinguished conservation leader and mentor who passed away several years ago.

Dr. Foster was, throughout a career of leadership in both the academic and public sectors, a remarkable catalyst of conservation initiatives, being a key player in the establishment of both the Cape Cod National Seashore and the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge, as well as a great many other local and regional initiatives. Foster was the first Secretary of Environmental Affairs for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, one of the first full-time Executive Directors of The Nature Conservancy, the Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and a beloved lecturer at Harvard Kennedy School’s Environment and Natural Resources Program. He was also a close collaborator with generations of program managers at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy focused on land conservation.

On February 22, 2016, ALPINE held the award ceremony at Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, Massachusetts to celebrate the successful initiative undertaken by Middlebury College to conserve its Bread Loaf Campus for its ecological and forestland values as well as educational and recreational uses. Middlebury’s Bread Loaf initiative was financed both internally and through a very generous matching gift from Middlebury alumnus Louis Bacon’s Moore Charitable Foundation. Mr. Bacon has also underwritten the Louis Bacon Environmental Fellows Program, launched fall 2015 and housed at Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership, where he is a member of the Center’s Leadership Council.

Middlebury was selected for this inaugural Charles H.W. Foster Award based on three criteria, reports David Foster (no relation), Director of the Harvard Forest and the leader of the Wildlands and Woodlands Initiative: “The outstanding effort to protect a landscape of high environmental and cultural significance; the high level of engagement of all stakeholders; and the far-reaching and lasting impact on the integrity and connectivity of conserved landscapes.”

In the early twenty-first century, it will take initiative from all hands — including innovators from the public, private, civic, academic sectors — to address the immense environmental challenges we face, including climate change and landscape fragmentation. Academic institutions in New England, where much of the theory and practice of conservation and environmental protection emerged in the United States, have a great deal to offer in addressing these challenges.