The John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation has awarded Housatonic Valley Association (HVA) a $60,000 Habitat, Land, and Environmental Protection Grant for its Follow the Forest conservation initiative.

The foundation is supporting arm of the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation, Inc.

The grant will allow HVA and its conservation partners in Northwest Connecticut to redouble their efforts to protect one of the most significant wildlife habitat corridors in the eastern United States.

“We are deeply grateful to the John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation for its support for our Follow the Forest effort”, said HVA’s Executive Director Lynn Werner.

“The ongoing public health and economic crisis means we and our partners need to use every resource at our disposal to save wildlife habitat, and right now there is so much important land in play,” she said. “We cannot afford to falter or lose momentum while the science tells us we need to do more.”

“Our region is experiencing residential real estate demand at levels and prices we haven’t seen since before the Great Recession,” said HVA’s Land Protection Manager Brendan Boepple. “We and our land trust partners need to be nimble and strategic to identify and protect the places that we can’t afford to lose, and Follow the Forest gives us the tools to do this.”

HVA’s Director of Regional Land Conservation Tim Abbott said Follow the Forest “is our very own Yellowstone to Yukon, and it has the same Continental-scale importance for wildlife.”

Follow the Forest identifies a forested wildlife corridor that connects the lower Hudson Valley to the Litchfield Hills and the Berkshires, Abbott said, and then continues on to the Green Mountains, the Adirondacks, and Canada.

“This biologically diverse landscape supports scores of rare and threatened wildlife species, anchored by a network of forested uplands and the places in between, such as riverbanks, fields and even culverts and bridges where wildlife need to pass in safety,” he related. “Such animals include small and mid-sized mammals, interior nesting migratory songbirds, wide-ranging species like moose and fisher, and those like northern flying squirrels that are at the limits of their contiguous ranges in this region.”

The Wiederhold Foundation grant will enable HVA to develop and implement an intensive landowner and land trust engagement program to protect the top priority forest habitats and wildlife linkages in Northwest Connecticut.

As part of this effort, HVA plans to launch an outreach and education campaign that will amplify and elevate the importance of Follow the Forest and its significance for wildlife conservation, according to Abbott.

HVA’s Land Protection team, together with its land trust and state agency partners, will work together with willing landowners top protect the places that are vital to maintaining this wildlife corridor, and take full advantage of available sources of land protection funding.

HVA is a regional watershed organization, an accredited land trust, and catalyst for strategic conservation in western New England and eastern New York.

It provides scientific and technical knowledge, transactional expertise and fundraising support to numerous conservation nonprofits and state agency partners, including several other land trust recipients of Wiederhold Foundation grants.

The organization and its staff sponsor the Litchfield Hills Greenprint Collaborative, one of the premier regional conservation partnerships or RCPs in the United States, and Follow the Forest, a unifying conservation vision and action agenda for numerous RCPs.

The John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation was created for the purpose of protecting and improving the welfare of animals of all kinds with a focus on cats and dogs, the promotion of veterinary programs, and the protection of wildlife, including endangered species, flora and fauna.

In 2012, The John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation Trustees elected to become a supporting organization of the Community Foundation.