NEFF Leadership

Celebrating Chris Pryor

Sep. 20, 2023

Writing by NEFF Conservation Easement Director Andrew Bentley, NEFF Development Manager Penny Flynn and NEFF Stewardship Manager Beth Gula

Lauren Owens Lambert

Chris Pryor, New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF) Director of Forest Stewardship and one of our most long-term employees, has taken an exciting new position as Service Forester with the State of Massachusetts. NEFF and the entire region are in debt to Chris for the legacy he has left us in New England’s forests. Managing 150 forestlands across five states is a herculean task in and of itself, but Chris was also instrumental in bringing Exemplary Forestry to our properties. In tribute to his time at NEFF, we thought it fitting to hear directly from some of the staff members he worked with most closely as they share fond memories and well wishes on behalf of our entire Board and staff.

–Bob Perschel, NEFF Executive Director

Penny Flynn

Chris came to NEFF 22 years ago—five years after I joined NEFF—as a licensed forester with wide-ranging forestry experience, including in the southeast, the west, and the northeast. Chris was hired to manage the organization’s communications efforts, as then-NEFF Executive Director Charlie Thompson thought it would be easier to teach a forester about communications than it would be to teach a communications specialist about forestry. Chris is a great writer, so it turned out to be the right decision. He’s also a great guy who willingly lends a hand wherever help is needed, which is a valuable quality for a nonprofit with a small staff—and a great quality to have in a coworker and friend.

After a couple of years, Chris transitioned to a NEFF Conservation Easement Coordinator position, where for nine years, he was responsible for monitoring 135 easements covering more than 1.1 million acres. Walking woodlots and meeting with landowners was more up his alley, and he excelled in the position. Chris developed strong relationships with landowners and laid the groundwork for NEFF’s current monitoring and record-keeping procedures.

Chris became NEFF’s Director of Forest Stewardship in 2012, and took responsibility for overseeing the management of NEFF’s 38,000 acres of Community Forests as well as supervising and mentoring new staff in the stewardship department—a big job with a lot of territory to cover. He rose to the occasion, as he always does, and helped usher in the era of Exemplary Forestry at NEFF. Exemplary Forestry is based on the high-standards sustainable forestry NEFF has always practiced on its own lands—a process then overseen by Chris—and with his advice, NEFF codified this in-house style to produce Exemplary Forestry.

NEFCo representatives were presented with the Forest Champion Award at NEFF’s 2019 Annual Meeting. Left to right: Fred Huntress, Dennis McKenney, Peter Farrell, Shaun Lagueux, Dave Kent, past NEFF Director of Forest Stewardship Chris Pryor, Sherm Small, Ryan Gumbart, Hunterr Payeur. Photo by Tinsley Hunsdorfer

Having been at NEFF for so many years, Chris was also a valued source of historical information, a trusted colleague we could go to for almost anything (we have the photos to prove it!), and above all, a friend. We miss him already. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation is lucky to have Chris and we wish him the best in this next chapter of his career.

Andrew Bentley

Chris and I first crossed paths ten years ago as colleagues working in different organizations. At that time, I worked for The Trustees of Reservations, and Chris and I helped co-found a “Stewardship Summit” in 2013 where stewardship staff from several regional land trusts headed out to the field together for “group therapy” to discuss challenges and best practices for our work.

That first year, Chris and NEFF’s previous Conservation Easement Manager Eben Sypitkowski showed us all a serious easement issue they had been working tirelessly for several years to resolve. NEFF staff members became regular attendees at what soon became an annual event, and we all came to highly respect one another as we shared our experiences managing easements and conservation lands around the region.

When NEFF’s Conservation Easement Manager position opened in 2017, I jumped at the opportunity to work with the incredible staff members and organization I had come to know during these summits, though I didn’t expect to inherit the still-present easement issue the group had first discussed four years prior! I think Chris was more than happy to hand it off to me and Beth Gula.

Chris’s institutional knowledge, advice, patience, and sense of humor were invaluable as I adapted to the ever-changing routine of stewarding NEFF’s 1.1 million acres of easements, and then when advanced to Easement Stewardship Director in 2022. I am grateful for all the time we spent collaborating and learning from one another at NEFF, both in the woods and at the office.

Beth Gula

Chris Pryor taught me the fundamentals of forestry. I started at NEFF with experience in trails and land stewardship, but somehow never learned about log landings or feller bunchers. In my first week as Stewardship Associate, I tagged along with Chris on both a pre-harvest walk and post-harvest inspection, soaking in the vocabulary and the concepts of forestry. He explained how to look at the trees standing after a harvest and to envision the forest decades into the future.

A few years later, I helped Chris prepare for a visit from young forestry undergrads. There’s an area in Prouty Woods set up to practice marking a harvest, with the decisions run through a computer program to model the outcome. Chris encouraged me to do the exercise as a test run. He humored my fretting over which trees to take or leave, being patient and supportive, but not really giving any answers so I had to trust my own knowledge and instinct.

I always appreciated opportunities to work in the field with Chris. Addressing issues often took priority, like the times he climbed trees with arborist gear to deconstruct abandoned tree stands, or when we dug post holes in rocky, roadside soil to replace broken property signs or install gates to block unauthorized vehicles. Chris handled the endless to-do list in a critical, thoughtful and efficient way. He works smart and hard, and always with a sense of humor and appreciation for days spent outside. I will miss him as a boss!

Chris Pryor walks NEFF’s Nelson Memorial Forest, photo by Twolined Studio