About the Report

Wildlands in New England is the first U.S. study to map and characterize all permanently conserved lands in one region that are managed to be forever wild.

The report answers these three important questions:

  • Where are Wildlands located in New England? 
  • What are the characteristics of these Wildlands?
  • What is their current protection status?

Wildlands in New England provides a critical baseline and a path forward for advancing policies and securing funding to accelerate Wildlands conservation in New England.

Research for this report was conducted by Wildlands, Woodlands, Farmlands & Communities partners Harvard Forest, Highstead Foundation, and Northeast Wilderness Trust, in collaboration with over one hundred conservation organizations and municipal, state, and federal agencies.

Why This Report? Why Now?

Wildlands offer a vital solution to climate change, biodiversity loss, and threats to human health and safety. Today, 81% of New England is forested, yet only 3.3% of the region is considered Wildlands. This fact makes New England uniquely positioned to lead the nation’s participation in the 30×30 global conservation effort while also securing the region’s future.

Who Can Use this Report?

The findings and recommendations detailed in this report provide a clear path for policymakers, public and private funders, land trusts, conservation organizations, landowners, and citizens. It provides the context, data, information, and recommendations needed to make land protection decisions at the local, state, and regional levels.

What are Wildlands?

Wildlands are tracts of any size and current condition, permanently protected from development, in which management is explicitly intended to allow natural processes to prevail with “free will” and minimal human interference. Humans have been part of nature for millennia and can coexist within and with Wildlands without intentionally altering their structure, composition, or function.

Definition from Wildlands in New England

Where to Start

Executive Summary

12-page summary that provides an overview of the full report, including conclusions and recommendations to aid policy makers, funders, conservation leaders, and landowners in making a strong case for Wildlands.

Full Report

112-page report providing an in-depth look at Wildlands in the region: historical context, Wildlands inventory of locations and characteristics, results of the study, and recommendations to help drive Wildlands conservation.

State Summary Reports

Two-page reports that provide state-specific data, information, and recommendations to help support policy and funding decisions in each state.

Interactive Webmap

Figures & Tables

24 figures and 7 tables available for download.

Printable Wildlands Map

This detailed map shows the location and ownership type of 426 Wildland properties throughout New England. For best results, print the map in full color on 11×17 paper.

Wildlands Checklist

How do you know if a parcel of land is considered a Wildland? We’ve created a checklist, using the criteria from the report, to help answer this question.

Integrated Approach

The Wildlands, Woodlands, Farmlands and Communities (WWF&C) vision calls for protection of Wildlands as part of an integrated approach to conservation that also includes forests managed for wood products, natural spaces for recreation and renewal, and farmlands that produce local food — while considering the human communities that rely on the health and beauty of the land that they call home.

Goals of the Study

  1. Establish a definition of Wildlands applicable to the land ownership of New England, and of the United States.
  2. Identify all lands fitting this definition from over 650 areas recommended by hundreds of groups.
  3. Develop and maintain an open-source database and online, interactive web map showing all Wildlands and protected conservation lands in New England, adding to and complementing existing databases of conserved lands.
  4. Disseminate the results and recommendations to landowners, practitioners, and policy makers to increase the understanding, appreciation, and conservation of Wildlands as a critical part of an integrated approach to land planning, both regionally and worldwide.
  5. Initiate further research on and tracking of Wildland conservation as part of the WWF&C initiative.


Research for this report progressed through several iterative phases: (1) establishment of the study’s scope and approach to identify and evaluate potential Wildlands; (2) region-wide outreach to public agencies and conservation organizations for inventory of existing Wildlands, collection of supporting information for each potential property, and refinement of evaluation methods; (3) systematic review of properties according to the established criteria, review of the emerging database with all external collaborators, data correction, and final review of challenging and newly uncovered parcels; and (4) analysis, interpretation, and product development.

Data Availability

The GIS data used in this study is being hosted at Harvard Forest and may be viewed here.

Submit a Property to the Wildlands Database

The Wildlands in New England report could not have been completed without the help of dozens of partners who suggested potential Wildlands to evaluate for inclusion in our database. Since
accurate and current data are critical for documenting progress towards Wildland goals and
supporting all stakeholders in conservation and policy, the Harvard Forest and Highstead will
maintain an openly accessible set of data archives, web-based maps, and tools to share current
information on all protected open space and Wildlands for the six-state region. To help determine if a parcel of land meets the Wildlands criteria, view the checklist.

Report Authors

David Foster, Emily E. Johnson, Brian R. Hall, Jonathan Leibowitz, Elizabeth H. Thompson, Brian Donahue, Edward K. Faison, Jamie Sayen, David Publicover, Nancy Sferra, Lloyd C. Irland, Jonathan R. Thompson, Robert Perschel, David A. Orwig, William S. Keeton, Malcolm L. Hunter Jr., Susan A. Masino, and Lillian Howell

Contributing Organizations


Download the report references which includes links to select sources.

Citation for the Full Report

Foster, D., E. E. Johnson, B. R. Hall, J. Leibowitz, E. H. Thompson, B. Donahue, E K. Faison, J. Sayen, D. Publicover, N. Sferra, L. C. Irland, J. R. Thompson, R. Perschel, D. A. Orwig, William S. Keeton, M. C. Hunter Jr., S. A. Masino, and L. Howell. 2023. Wildlands in New England. Past, Present, and Future. Harvard Forest Paper 36. Harvard University.