About the Keystone Project

Since 1988, the Coverts program has trained over 325 people who have direct control of over 20,000 acres and are involved with more than 175,000 acres (e.g.,  work with a land trust, local conservation commission, sportsmen club).  In 2006, the name was changed to Keystone to better reflect the focus and direction of the project.

In ecology, a keystone species is one whose impacts on its environment are larger and greater than would be expected from one species. Like the Coverts program before, the Keystone project selects and educates forest owners and community leaders who have a significant impact on their communities. The program offers these important, Keystone people information about forest ecology, sustainable forest management, wildlife habitat enhancement, and land protection through a combination of lectures, field trips, discussions and take home resources.

Participants in the annual 3-day training program are chosen competitively from a pool of applicants that includes forest landowners, and members of land trusts, town conservation commissions, and other conservation organizations. Applications are reviewed for applicant experience, connectedness within the community, special skills, and diversity. See the list of Keystone Cooperators from the 2015 class.

After the training program, Keystone Cooperators continue to receive information and resources to keep them well informed.  Each fall there are optional Keystone reunions to continue to learn and meet each other.  Keystones can also participate in the Keystone Listserve.

In return for participating in the program, Keystone Cooperators agree to return to their respective communities and serve as spokespersons or advocates for forest conservation. The activities of these volunteers are limited only by their own creativity, and have included:

  • Organize a “Woods Forum” workshop in their community
  • Articles in the local paper
  • Organized tours and walks
  • Create important habitat
  • Informal conversations with neighbors or local  landowners about forest management and protection
  • Programs with local schools; radio or local access cable television programming
  • Serving on a local town board
  • Becoming involved in a local land trust or conservation effort

Keystone Cooperators have been assisted in their work by local resources and funding programs, including: the Landowner Incentive Program (LIP), local foresters and land trusts, Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP), and the Forest Stewardship Program.

Keystone Project Sponsorship

The Keystone project is primarily funded through the generosity of partner organizations.  Organizations that have sponsored Keystone in the past include:

If you or your organization is interested in partnering with UMass Extension to sponsor a Keystone program, please contact Paul Catanzaro at 413.545.4839 or cat@umext.umass.edu.

Cooperator Quotes

“I’ve learned a tremendous amount from the program as well as the other participants.”
"Made me appreciate the range of possible decisions a landowner can take in managing a forest."