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Since 1944, New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF) has completed a number of groundbreaking programs and targeted conservation campaigns that furthered two of NEFF’s 30 Percent Solution’s key strategies: prevent the net loss of forests and spread the use of sustainable, climate-smart forestry like our own Exemplary Forestry standards. Read about some of these cornerstone projects.
When the New England Forestry Foundation’s Downeast Woods and Wildlife project came to a successful conclusion in December 2020, it shifted the geography of our conservation legacy: Downeast Maine, with its fog-wreathed coastlines and deep green-and-grey forests, became home to most of this century’s large-scale NEFF conservation work to date.
NEFF ultimately reached three times the original conservation goal for the project, which means 2020 added more acreage to NEFF’s network of Community Forests than any previous year.
The initial aim of NEFF’s Downeast Woods and Wildlife project was to purchase and protect forestlands along the winding and sun-dappled Dennys River, whose waters—kept cool and clean by riverside forests—provide critical habitat to Maine’s endangered Atlantic Salmon population and other cold-water fish.
The project had its first major success in summer 2018 when NEFF purchased the 1,160-acre Reynolds Family Forest, and NEFF went on to take ownership of a second Dennys-adjacent property—the 2,200-acre Venture Brook Community Forest—in December 2020. This alone would have been enough to call the project a success, but in October 2020, NEFF received two donated Downeast Maine properties totaling 5,700 acres that also stand to benefit wild animals, just ones with feathers rather than fins. This truly transformative gift allows NEFF to model Exemplary Forestry at scale on more than 9,000 Downeast Maine acres.
Realizing the need to better communicate with the approximately 215,000 owners of more than 10 forestland acres in New England, NEFF launched an intensive learning project in 2013 to improve outreach to this audience that is so important to conservation success.
NEFF teamed up with American Forest Foundation and the MassConn Sustainable Forest Partnership to convene local land trusts and foresters in a 38-town region in northeastern Connecticut and south-central Massachusetts. The partners worked to fund, implement and evaluate strategies to engage woodland owners in learning about conservation and sustainable forestry.
Over a six-year period, a series of grant-funded mailing campaigns, educational workshops, walks, estate planning events and funding opportunities were implemented in this region. Outcomes included:
NEFF’s 2019 report, From Engagement to Action: Supporting Woodland Owners in Decisions About Their Land, summarizes lessons from the MassConn Woods Outreach Initiative and calls for sustained funding for this work around New England. NEFF recommends scaling up proactive outreach by regional partnerships in order to conserve important forest landscapes for wildlife habitat and to support woodland owners to sustainably manage their land amid a rapidly changing climate.
Learn more about NEFF’s ongoing outreach program.
The Downeast Lakes Forestry Partnership was a joint effort of the NEFF and the Downeast Lakes Land Trust (DLLT) to protect 339,000 acres in Maine’s easternmost county. The project was designed to address the social and economic needs of the region, as well as to achieve far-reaching conservation goals. As such, it stands apart from similar landscape-scale conservation efforts.
Through this partnership, DLLT purchased and is managing 27,080 acres as the Farm Cove Community Forest, and NEFF purchased a 312,000-acre sustainable-forestry easement on the surrounding lands. Strategically situated between 600,000 acres of conservation land in New Brunswick and 200,000 acres of state, federal, and Native American lands in Maine, the project contributes to the protection of more than one million acres across an international boundary. Public access is granted throughout the 339,000 acres, which include more than 1,500 miles of river and stream shoreline, 445 miles of shoreline on all or portions of 60 lakes, and 54,000 acres of productive wetlands.
Local loggers, mill workers, sporting guides and lodge owners, boat builders, wreath makers, and craftspeople depend upon this largely undeveloped landscape for their livelihoods and lifestyles. Seasonal residents and visiting sportsmen and -women rely on the pristine landscape for recreation and rejuvenation, populating the sporting camps, hiring local guides, and buying local goods, augmenting the local economy.
This area is one of the most important Neotropical bird breeding habitats in the northern area of the Atlantic flyway, with more than 185 bird species, including 23 species of warblers. Five percent of the Common Loons of Maine live here, and a number of active Bald Eagle nests have been spotted in the area. In addition, American Marten and Canada Lynx—the two umbrella wildlife species for NEFF’s Acadian Exemplary Forestry standards—also live on these lands.
In March 2001, New England Forestry Foundation and the Pingree family completed the largest forestland conservation easement in the history of the United States. The project permanently protects 762,192 acres from development.
Three and a half times the size of Baxter State Park, and larger than the state of Rhode Island, the Pingree easement conserves some of the most spectacular natural resources in Maine, including the Allagash Lakes and 16 miles along the St. John River. The easement also protects portions of the Cupsuptic, Black, Little Black, St. John, Machias, and Aroostook Rivers, as well as Upper Richardson, Kennebago, Munsungan, Loon, Caucomgomoc, Eagle, Chamberlain, Allagash, Mooseleuk, and Churchill Lakes. The forests contain numerous active bald eagle nests, 24,800 acres of managed deeryards, 72,000 acres of wetland habitat, Maine’s most productive peregrine falcon nesting area, and at least 67 rare and endangered plant sites.
Steve Schley, president of Pingree Associates, Inc., agents for the Pingree family, said, “The family is very pleased to have worked with New England Forestry Foundation to conserve this magnificent Maine forestland. Now we can move forward with our primary objective of managing our forests sustainably, and contributing to the forest economy of Maine.” The Pingree forest was the first in the world to be “Green Certified” by two independent third-party certifiers.
More than 45 foundations, both large and small, contributed to the success of the project, including The John Merck Fund and the Merck Family Fund, each of which provided major lead gifts to launch the fundraising initiative. The Libra Foundation made the largest single gift from a Maine-based foundation. Generous grants also were received from the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the Sudbury Foundation, the Betterment Fund, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act fund, and the agencies involved with the North Cape Oil Spill (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
More than 1,000 individuals also contributed to the success of this project, including $831.42 from the children at Breakwater School in Portland, Maine, who conducted a penny drive to raise the funds. Further, the acreage protected was increased thanks to participation of the Maine Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. Its financial support and the addition of forested acres from its recent acquisition added protection for the St John River and Big Reed Pond.
A broad coalition formed among the state’s various conservation, sporting, and business organizations to support the purchase of the Pingree easement. Participants included the Forest Society of Maine, Sportsmen’s Alliance of Maine, Maine Audubon Society, Northern Forest Alliance, Chewonki Foundation, Maine AFL-CIO, Maine Forest Products Council, Maine Professional Guides, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust, Ducks Unlimited, Maine Appalachian Trail Club, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Maine Council of Trout Unlimited, Maine Snowmobile Association, Maine Sporting Camp Association, Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Businesses for the Northern Forest, and the Maine Tourism Association.