Climate-Smart Commodities, Supporter Profile

A Long-Awaited Celebration

Aug. 21, 2023

Writing by NEFF Communications Manager Tinsley Hunsdorfer, photography by Lauren Owens Lambert

New England Forestry Foundation Rick Findlay receives awards at NEFF's 2023 Annual Meeting. Photo by Lauren Owens Lambert.

For its first full Annual Meeting Picnic Celebration since summer 2019, New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF) decided to shake up its usual program by giving attendees more opportunities to connect with each other, and skipped a formal guest speaker in favor of a birding workshop and excursion—while still inviting some exciting, high-profile guests to the event.

When Executive Director Bob Perschel took the stage and spoke from the heart about the hope offered by climate-smart forestry, when NEFF staff and Board members and volunteers gathered around small tables to chat and plan and laugh, when longtime donors introduced themselves to new NEFF partners, when all this and more unfolded over a gray and drizzly afternoon—NEFF’s ambitious goals and growing programs felt entirely feasible, because this vibrant and committed community is the well-laid foundation on which NEFF continues to build skyward (with wood, or course).

A Momentous Award Ceremony

Bob and NEFF Board Chair Rick Weyerhaeuser kicked off the awards ceremony by presenting outgoing Board member Rick Findlay with the Board Outstanding Service award, and Receptionist and Administrative Assistant Donna Sibley—who has worked at NEFF for 19 years—with the Staff Outstanding Service award. Next, Bob and Rick presented Tom Lapointe with the Forest Steward Award for his volunteer service at Mary A. Herrick Memorial Forest, and Steve Barlow with the Forest Steward Award for his volunteer service at Wellington Wells Memorial Forest.

Bob then turned to the Forest Champion Awards, which recognize exemplary efforts in forest conservation and sustainable management, and presented one each to Wil Merck and Sandy Buck for their support of the Forest Carbon for Commercial Landowners initiative. The initiative’s work led to the March 2023 publication of a report stating northern Maine’s commercial forestlands could store at least 20 percent more carbon each year by changing forest management practices, and without reducing harvest levels.

“Wil Merck and Sandy Buck are long-time NEFF supporters and champions of environmental causes who are now looking to the future with projects like this crucial report on how improved forestry can help the climate,” said Bob. “It was through Wil and Sandy’s leadership and love of Maine forests that we were able to bring together many large landowners to determine ways their management could help mitigate climate change.”

U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren were both also honored with a Forest Champion Award for their outstanding support of sustainable and climate-smart forestry, as well as forest conservation. As the Senate was in session during the Annual Meeting, two of the Senators’ staff members headed to Littleton in their stead: Regional Director Liam Horsman of the Office of U.S. Senator Markey, and Regional Director Allyson Huntoon of the Office of U.S. Senator Warren.

Mr. Horsman and Ms. Huntoon accepted the awards for Senators Markey and Warren, read statements on the Senators’ behalf, and presented NEFF with Certificates of Special Recognition.

Senators Markey and Warren provided regional leadership in making the case for New England to play a prominent role in the USDA $3 billion Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, and they also worked to secure support for the Woodlands Partnership of Northwest Massachusetts, a regional, multi-partner collaboration to promote conservation and natural resource-based recreation and economic development for 21 rural towns in the most forested corner of the Commonwealth.

“Senators Warren and Markey have long been champions of Massachusetts and of climate change solutions, and NEFF was honored to present this award to them both for their climate-action leadership and for their help in securing our Climate-Smart Commodities award to serve New England as a whole,” said NEFF Deputy Director and Climate Fellow Andrea Colnes. “Thanks to their work we can now say, ‘We’ve got a plan for that!’”

Speaking With Friends, Old and New

After lunch and the awards ceremony, bird mimic Dan Gardoqui of Lead With Nature led a 30-minute workshop, and then NEFF offered guests three fun options as the day started to wind down: join a group of attendees heading into Prouty Woods with Dan to bird by ear, talk to the range of fascinating people who were happy to just kick back and sip an iced tea, or get a sneak peek of NEFF’s new mass timber explainer video and speak to NEFF Bioeconomy Director Jen Shakun about it.

Finally, the day ended with laughter, waves goodbye, and the stacking of chairs. While much of the wider NEFF community wasn’t able to attend the Annual Meeting, several conversations touched on those who couldn’t be there, and staff and the Board of Directors are grateful to each and every person and organization that makes NEFF’s work possible. Together, we can accomplish astonishing things—and there are many exciting opportunities ahead.