NEFF Leadership, News Room

Executive Director Bob Perschel Announces Retirement After 12 Years at NEFF

May. 16, 2024

“It feels like the right time to turn over the wheel… and spend more time with my new granddaughter and family.”

NEFF Executive Director Bob Perschel describes Exemplary Forestry, photo by Tinsley Hunsdorfer

I’m writing to the NEFF community to announce my plans to retire as Executive Director of New England Forestry (NEFF) by the end of this year. I felt it was important you heard this from me, because the NEFF community has truly built something special together—each and every one of us, working together, since I joined this remarkable organization 12 years ago. I’ve spent 45 years as an environmental professional, and I’m glad that in this final stretch, I have been able to help NEFF step fully into a regional leadership role on forest-based climate solutions.

NEFF’s Board of Directors has begun the search process for my successor in consultation with the full NEFF staff. I still have many months to go at NEFF, but I wanted everyone to hear the news of my retirement now, which gives me a first chance to thank everyone for the support they have provided to me personally and to NEFF over the last 12 years—years I have been honored to spend as Executive Director of an organization that has grown into the remarkable New England Forestry Foundation that stands before us today.

NEFF is celebrating its 80th year in 2024; 80 years is a long time for any conservation organization, and when I look back at NEFF’s history, I can easily chart three major achievements that led to this day. The first is introducing professional foresters into New England to help private landowners manage their lands well. Now there is a cadre of professional consultants available to any landowner. The second is showing the way on how to use large landscape conservation easements as a major tool to accomplish regional-scale conservation. Our Pingree and Downeast Lakes easements opened the door to a world-class conservation success story for New England.

NEFF’s third achievement is being realized right now, and you—and I—are part of it. Over the last 12 years, NEFF has demonstrated and modeled how New England’s forests can offset 30 percent of the region’s necessary carbon emissions. Forests and forest management are now in the forefront of a global effort to combat climate change, and NEFF is leading the way. We were the first to:

  • Codify climate-smart standards—Exemplary Forestry.
  • Model the impact of these practices at a regional scale when combined with other forest-based climate solutions—the 30 Percent Solution.
  • Call for a new definition of sustainable forestry that would integrate the climate challenges we face within the next 30 years.
  • Connect building tall structures and affordable housing to improved forestry and climate benefits.
  • Develop new conservation tools like the Pooled Timber Income Fund and the Exemplary Forestry Investment Fund.

For this bold thinking, NEFF was rewarded with a $30 million grant from USDA, and I am proud to report we just issued our first Request for Proposal for commercial landowners to apply for climate-smart forestry incentives under NEFF’s USDA-funded Climate-Smart Commodities project.

We now need to demonstrate how these improved practices can be implemented at scale and identify a long-term funding source to move these new practices across the entire region. Congress put $27 billion into the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and we believe we have a regional “shovel ready” project that can utilize that funding for a 30 Percent Solution.

While we may have a change at the top, the path forward for NEFF as an organization remains clear. We have utilized our funding to form a very strong team of experts to carry this work forward. We have experts in Green Banking and conservation finance, experienced and visionary foresters and a new team assigned to stimulate the bioeconomy and the climate-smart use of new materials—we will be introducing them to you in the coming months. And we also have wonderful partners in other state and regional conservation organizations, and supporters like you, who love your region and want it to be healthy when you pass it along to future generations.

There is a long road ahead—climate change and new challenges are realities that must be dealt with. But I am confident that with your continued support, our NEFF team can achieve our mission: helping the people of New England to sustain their way of life, protecting forest wildlife habitat and ecosystem services, and mitigating and adapting to climate change—by applying NEFF’s core expertise in conserving forestland and advancing Exemplary Forestry.

I intend to remain involved in this work as I have been for over 40 years, and look forward to writing more and exploring new ways to use my experience to help the cause. It feels like the right time to turn over the wheel at NEFF to a new leader and spend more time with my new granddaughter and family. I look forward to seeing you at our Annual Meeting, sometime this year, or wherever our paths may cross as we work to protect this wonderful region.

Robert Perschel

In Robert (Bob) Perschel’s 45 years as an environmental professional, he has worked on forestry, large landscape conservation, and wilderness and land ethic issues. Bob worked for the forest industry before establishing his own forestry consulting business and founding the Land Ethic Institute, and he is an original co-founder of the Forest Stewards Guild. He has a Master of Forestry Science degree from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Bob joined the New England Forestry Foundation’s staff in 2012 to lead the revitalization of the 80-year-old forestry and land conservation organization through increased funding and the establishment of a suite of programs designed to protect and sustainably manage 30 million acres of New England forestland. His personal goal is to ensure that forests make their greatest possible contribution to abating damaging climate change.