Mission & History


The NSRC supports cross-disciplinary, collaborative research in the Northern Forest — a 26-million acre working landscape that is home to about two million residents and stretches from eastern Maine through New Hampshire and Vermont and into northern New York. Broad research goals are stipulated in the NSRC congressional authorization (Public Law 105-185).  A central component of the program is the importance of the Northern Forest to society and the need for research activities to have relevance and benefit to "the people who live within its boundaries, work with its resources, use its products, visit it, and care about it."


The history of the Northeastern States Research Cooperative (NSRC) traces back more than two decades.  In the 1980s, the unique Northern Forest region — a 26-million acre working landscape with unique recreation opportunities, vast forested watersheds, and a diversity of northern wildlife — was elevated as a priority for national protection when concerns arose that remaining forest land and its timber were being lost to unplanned fragmentation and real estate speculation.

At that time, the governors of Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and New York turned to the region's congressional delegations to formally create the Northern Forest Lands Council (NFLC) in order to address these land-use change and community concerns. In 1994, the NFLC published Finding Common Ground: Conserving the Northern Forest (PDF) which, among other priorities, called for the formation of a four-state research cooperative to develop a better understanding of the region's social, economic, and environmental challenges.  The congressional authorization for the Northeastern States Research Cooperative was passed as part of Public Law 105-185.

The first year of funding through the NSRC authorization (2001) was to the Hubbard Brook Project of the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station and focused on ecosystem studies. The funds were distributed in collaboration with the Northeastern Ecosystem Research Cooperative, an independent research group with strong partnership and interest in the NSRC program.

Subsequent years of funding — to both the Hubbard Brook Project and to the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont — have continued to support ecosystem research and have expanded to include studies of social and economic issues in the Northern Forest.

The NSRC Charter was drafted and signed by the Executive Advisory Board of the NSRC in 2004 and was revised in 2008.  This document created the structure, governance, and guidelines for the four-state research cooperative.

During 2005, we were pleased to add a third theme at the Center for Research on Sustainable Forests at the University of Maine.  As a partner in the NSRC, Maine hosted a research theme on forest productivity and forest products in the RFP process for the first time in 2006.  In 2008, we added a fourth theme at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry which expands our research programs to include studies of biodiversity and protected areas management. Please visit our Research Themes page to learn more about each theme.

Authorization (from Public Law 105-185, Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Research Act of 1978 section 1642 (d) (3) as amended in 2003

"At the request of the Governor of the State of Maine, New Hampshire, New York, or Vermont, the Secretary may cooperate with the northeastern States of New Hampshire, New York, Maine, and Vermont, land-grant colleges and universities of those States, natural resources and forestry schools of those States, other Federal agencies, and other interested persons in those States to coordinate and improve ecological and economic research relating to agriculture research, extension, and education, including —

(A) research on ecosystem health, forest management, product development, economics, and related fields;

(B) research to assist those States and landowners in those States to achieve sustainable forest management;

(C) technology transfer to the wood products industry of technologies that promote efficient processing, pollution prevention, and energy conservation;

(D) dissemination of existing and new information to landowners, public and private resource managers, State forest citizen advisory committees, and the general public through professional associations, publications, and other information clearinghouse activities; and

(E) analysis of strategies for the protection of areas of outstanding ecological significance or high biological diversity, and strategies for the provision of important recreational opportunities and traditional uses, including strategies for areas identified through State land conservation planning processes."