Two-thirds of Massachusetts is forested and over 75 percent of our forests are owned by families and individuals. Every day, over 40 acres of Massachusetts open space (forests and fields) is developed. The average age of a family forest owner in Massachusetts is approximately 60 years old. In the coming years, much of our woodlands will be passing hands from one generation to the next. How these woods are passed on will have a significant impact on our future forests and the benefits they provide.

The “Case Studies of Conservation” course taught by Dave Kittredge and offered in the NRC department offers students the opportunity to learn more about the people who own most of our landscape, the tools available to conserve these lands, and the opportunity to meet and interact with conservation professionals from across the state. The course also offers students the chance to have a real world impact on land conservation.

A requirement of the course is to develop a case study of a land conservation project. Some of these case studies are then posted on MassWoods (, UMass Extension’s Forest Conservation website, maintained by Extension Forester Paul Catanzaro who works in the NRC department. MassWoods features a gallery of case studies developed by students in the class which tell the story of how families and conservation organizations have worked together to conserve land across Massachusetts. Visit the gallery of case studies:

One of the case studies in the gallery is a video viewable through YouTube or downloadable as a Podcast. The video highlights how the Riley family worked with Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust to pass their family land on to the next generation while protecting its natural resources, scenic beauty and family history. The Riley and Mount Grace story demonstrates how families can work with local land trusts to plan the future of their family’s land. Although the Riley video was done by a professional videographer, future students will be encouraged to consider using video and audio technology to tell the story of the landowner.

Case Studies of Conservation offers students the opportunity to both learn about land conservation and to have a conservation impact by helping landowners make informed decisions.