Convened in 2016 by the Northern Forest Center, U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, and the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group, the Rural Development Innovation Group is made up of rural development practitioners, intermediaries and others who have been deeply involved in advancing rural community and economic development through “wealth-building” approaches that add value to local assets, create jobs and build regional and local capacity to adapt to changing conditions.

The Group’s principal goals are to accelerate the adoption, adaptation and impact of innovative rural development strategies and convene key innovators to increase leadership, learning and dissemination to the field. Read the full case statement.

In 2017, the Rural Development Innovation Group is hosting a six-part series, America’s Rural Opportunity, to explore innovative and proven approaches to rural economic development.

In tandem, the group is developing new partnerships to turn our proven ideas into better opportunities for rural places via federal policy and philanthropic strategy.

Click here to see a list of Rural Development Innovation Group members. Watch all America's Rural Opportunity speaker panels to learn more.

The Northern Forest Center is helping convene a group of rural leaders with the Aspen Institute, and the US Endowment for Forestry & Communities. The Rural Development Innovation Group will highlight innovative approaches to rural development from all corners of the country, and use these experiences to help shape the new administration’s rural agenda, as well as the upcoming Farm Bill, over the coming year.

Next Event: Supporting Rural Entrepreneurial Economies

Mark your Calendars for the next installment of the 6-part America’s Rural Opportunity series. The rural innovation showcase invites policymakers, economic and community development practitioners, and business and philanthropic leaders to engage in real dialogue around advancing a rural opportunity agenda.

Location: The Aspen Institute 1 Dupont Circle Suite 700 Washington, DC
Friday March 17, 2017 12pm - 1:30pm
Register to attend in person or livestream the event here.

The Rural Development Innovation Group will highlight innovative approaches to rural development from all corners of the country, and use these experiences to help shape the new administration’s rural agenda, as well as the upcoming Farm Bill, over the coming year. Here's the video from the first event in the series:

Working at the state and federal levels, the Center advocates for public policies and regional investment that will support economic opportunities based on sustainable use of the forest.

We do this by improving public policies that support new industries that use the forest sustainably, such as modern wood heating, and by securing public investments in maintaining forestland and building forest-based businesses. You can learn more on our approach to advocacy and our work with the Northern Border Regional Commission in northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

The Center and the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation hosted the Northern Forest Symposium November 4-6, 2015 in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.

NF Symposium group 2 resixed for web

The symposium gathered 130 people from across the region to address five objectives:

  • Forge Relationships. Create and build relationships across landscape, industry, experience and outlook in ways that inform and enhance their work across the region.
  • Revitalize Communities. Learn how innovative communities from each state have set themselves on a revitalization path – and generate ideas and strong strategies that other communities might adopt and adapt to do the same.
  • Explore Questions of Balance. Delve into how initiatives across the region in different sectors have addressed how to balance our working economy with our working landscape – so that both can endure.
  • Advise the Region. Provide practical counsel and ideas to a set of region-wide initiatives on a specific challenge or opportunity each is currently facing.
  • Inspire and Energize. Engage participants in reflective, connective and fun exchanges that will refresh their perspective – and catalyze local and regional action!
Event sponsors included: Vermont Community Foundation, Mount Washington Resort, Northern Border Regional Commission, USDA Rural Development, Granite Bank, McDevitt Trucks Inc., Adirondack Foundation, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Plum Creek, Maine Community Foundation, Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, Community National Bank, Bank of New Hampshire, Passumpsic Savings Bank, Northway Bank

Northern Forest Symposium

Following are the US Senators, US Representatives and Governors elected to serve the people and communities of the Northern Forest:



US Rep. Chellie Pingree
Maine 1 View website

US Rep. Bruce Poliquin
Maine 2 View website

US Sen. Angus King
View website

US Sen. Susan Collins
View website

Gov. Paul LePage
View website


New Hampshire

US Rep. Carol Shea-Porter
NH-1 View website

US Rep. Ann McLane Kuster
NH-2 View website

US Sen. Maggie Hassan
View website

US Sen. Jeanne Shaheen
View website

Gov. Chris Sununu
View website


New York

US Rep. John Faso
NY-19 View website

US Rep. Elise Stefanik
NY-21 View website

US Rep. Claudia Tenney
NY-22 View website

US Sen. Charles Schumer
View website

US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
View website

Gov. Andrew Cuomo
View website



US Rep. Peter Welch
VT-ALL View website

US Sen. Patrick Leahy
View website

US Sen. Bernie Sanders
View website

Gov. Phil Scott
View website