One day in the mid-1970s, Ben Pratt had a conversation with J. Milton “Milt” Attridge, a NEFF forester and fellow resident of Antrim, NH, that helped spark a now decades-long commitment to conservation.
“Milt had a genuine feeling for the environment, and was concerned about the impact civilization was having on forests,” said Pratt. “I was very impressed with his opinions about responsible forestry and what he had to say about the New England Forestry Foundation.”
Attridge joined NEFF’s staff in 1946, two years after the organization’s founding, and served as chief forester from 1954-1967. He helped NEFF build and train a team of consulting foresters who practiced sustainable forest management at a time when few were concerned about working forests’ long-term health.
Attridge’s explanation of NEFF’s work and mission left a mark on Pratt. He went on to make his first gift to NEFF in 1977, and has donated every year since.
While a shared interest in conservation was part of what brought Pratt and Attridge together over the many years they knew each other, Attridge also worked as the consulting forester for Pratt’s 110-acre woodlot.
The property is located in the rolling hills of southwest New Hampshire’s Monadnock Region, which Pratt characterizes as, “fairly wild country.” It was purchased by Pratt’s father-in-law in 1942 and then passed on to the next generation in the 1970s.
“Milt made the original forestry plan for the property and it’s still the foundation of the plan we use today,” said Pratt. “Ralph Little, my father-in-law, and I agreed that this land should stay a well-managed forest, but I was concerned about what would happen to it when I’m gone.”
When a neighbor explained why they had chosen to put their 47-acre property under a conservation easement with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, Pratt knew he had found his answer to ensuring permanent protection for his forestland.
In 2002, Pratt contributed an easement to that organization that includes his entire property except the area around his house. In 2005, another neighbor followed suit and gave the Harris Center a 49-acre easement on their adjacent property.
“My property is now quite unique,” Pratt said. “It’s part of this larger area of adjacent conserved land and I’m using solar energy to power the whole household.”
Pratt’s impressive conservation work isn’t limited to his property. He is also a champion of renewable energy projects, supports many environmental organizations, and keeps abreast of innovative ways to address climate change, including the use of sustainable cross-laminated timber in place of steel and concrete.
“Climate change is very worrying,” Pratt said. “I have six great grandchildren, and I’m more than concerned about what their generation is going to have to deal with.”
This concern for the future is part of what makes Pratt such an effective conservationist and forest owner. He keeps an eye on long-term impacts and prioritizes the overall health of the natural world—and he’s doing all he can to make a better future for his youngest family members. It’s an honor to count him as a NEFF supporter.
Writing and photography by Tinsley Hunsdorfer.