Land Conservation & Historic Preservation - A Call for Greater Collaboration

Losing special places is like swallowing a bitter pill.  Although unfortunate, it can be the best way to deepen your appreciation of the special places that remain and to learn how to protect them.  Valerie Talmage, well-known in Massachusetts and now at Preserve RI, gave an inspired and inspiring presentation last week about protecting special places at the Dartmouth Heritage Preservation Trust's annual meeting.  She began the talk by explaining that although historic preservation and land conservation are separate fields, have different regulations and funding sources, and are generally served by distinct organizations, their common purpose outweighs their differences.  Afterall, the mission of both fields is to protect places that are special. 

Conservationists focus on protecting natural resources and open space whereas preservationists focus on protecting historic resources.  But, how can you separate the farm from the farmhouse, the stonewall from the field, the grounds from the estate house?    Since humans have undoubtedly touched every square inch of New England, our history is now imprinted on the landscape.   The places we value are special for many reasons - ecologic, scenic, and historic.  When one component is lost, it can undermine the authenticity and value of the whole. 

Talmage shared examples of both lost opportunities and of successes in collaboration.   She emphasized the need for stronger partnerships between the fields and detailed multiple ways that each could benefit from the other.  

My reflections on Talmage's presentation brings me back to the Community Preservation Act (CPA) in Massachusetts.   The genius behind CPA is its recognition that community character is made up of multiple interlocking parts - open space, historic resources, affordable housing, and recreation facilities.  CPA is uniquely and perfectly structured to encourage collaboration not just among the fields of historic preservation and land conservation but among all of the CPA areas.  In fact, it is quite common (and commendable) for CPA communities to prefer funding projects that meet multiple objectives (sometimes called "multi-use" projects) and there are lots of examples of great multi-use CPA projects across the state. 

Share your stories of successful collaboration or lost opportunities by commenting on this post.