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New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF) took on the ownership and management of its first Community Forest in 1945, and now owns and manages more than 150 Community Forests across New England totaling more than 40,000 acres. NEFF also holds conservation easements on more than 1,150,000 forestland acres—many of them split between just two landscape-scale conservation projects—making NEFF the largest conservation easement holder in the U.S. and the nation’s fourth largest land trust.
Of the large, unfragmented forestland parcels NEFF has protected, clearly most of them have been conserved with easements in the past. Today, NEFF pursues select projects to conserve stretches of unfragmented forests through ownership, while still protecting a range of woodlands with easements.
NEFF prioritizes properties that can support a viable wood products sector and abundant wildlife, offer recreational opportunities, and help mitigate the climate crisis by allowing us to practice Exemplary Forestry—our science-based, carbon-storing sustainable forestry approach that prioritizes forests’ long-term health—at scale.
NEFF’s conservation staff members mostly find conservation opportunities like these in the region’s northern forests, as our 2018-2020 Downeast Woods and Wildlife project showed.
The initial aim of the project was to purchase and protect forestlands along Downeast Maine’s 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 expanded to also include habitat for songbirds, and in the end, successfully conserved 9,150 acres between four new NEFF Community Forests.