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Investing in Our Forests, Investing in Ourselves

Dec. 14, 2023

Photography by Charlie Reinertsen

Photo of a forester using an increment borer

A Year-End Letter from Executive Director Bob Perschel

Dear friends and members of the NEFF community,

I remember when I first started in this profession as a young forester. I was in constant awe of the trees around me. Resilient, beautiful, and vital to our way of life, it was easy to feel small in this landscape. For me, the forest has always provided perspective and connection. I am now learning that for the Eastern Wabanaki—which includes the Maine-based Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Mailiseet and Mi’kmaq Nations—this sense of being is interwoven with a tree so fundamental that its destruction threatens an important piece of cultural identity.

In Wabanaki culture, the Brown Ash tree features prominently in a creation story and has been used to make baskets for centuries upon centuries. Because of the invasive Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), the Wabanaki risk losing a large part of their way of life.

Great work is being done by the Tribal Nations in Maine in determining best practices for mitigating the spread of the EAB. Our own USDA Climate-Smart Commodities partner, Dr. John Daigle, a member of the Penobscot Nation and a professor at the University of Maine, has guided this effort, leading a research team that incorporates diverse perspectives and knowledge. Addressing this issue is a group effort that depends on a landscape-wide approach.

Naturally, forest management is one of many possible options being looked at as a viable remediation tool for preserving Brown Ash amidst the threat of EAB. Business-as-usual forestry typically overlooks this tree in management plans. Thanks to the awarding of our USDA Climate-Smart Commodities grant, NEFF is able to work with partners like John in changing this norm. NEFF will join partners who are contributing their expertise and resources as part of a multi-prong approach to prevent EAB spread in this region. We know Exemplary Forestry can accommodate and set goals for certain tree species like the Brown Ash.

NEFF’s Exemplary Forestry standards have a lot to offer beyond lessening the spread of invasive insects. Between managing the forest for wildlife, carbon storage, and wood products, Exemplary Forestry is also a powerful climate change mitigation tool. By practicing these standards, continuing to conserve forestland, and building with wood, we can reduce 30 percent of the climate emissions needed to meet New England’s net-zero goals by 2050. Because of your ongoing generosity, NEFF is well-positioned to make an impact. Our 79-year history and long record of success is the foundation. Our shared predicament is the driver. Thanks to you, we’re building on the monumental progress we’ve made, but we need your continued support in writing this next chapter. Time is of the essence.

We are at a climate tipping point. The stakes couldn’t be higher. We must act now or succumb to the worst effects of climate change. Livelihoods depend on the responsible management of our forests. Exemplary Forestry provides a real solution for climate change and ensures the longevity of healthy forests. With your loyal backing, we can fund these types of innovative solutions, implement them, and scale them for maximum impact. Your commitment to making a difference has a profound effect on lives everywhere.

The Wabanaki’s relationship to the Brown Ash is an extraordinary example of our need for coexistence with nature. We all have an attachment to the forest, whether we realize it or not. For some of us, it may be in the form of forest walks we take with our children or grandchildren. For the artistically inclined, it may present as the constant spring of inspiration for our beautiful creations. For those of us looking to escape our busy world, it may exist in our need for solitude and a quiet refuge to recharge. It may not always be obvious how our lives are made better by forests, but we think you’ll agree they are special places worth protecting. An investment in our forests is an investment in ourselves. When you give to NEFF, you give back to the places that have given so much to you.



Bob Perschel, Executive Director

Learn More

Ash Protection Collaboration Across Wabanakik | Emerald Ash Borer Network

My Father’s Tools | A Heather Condo film about basketmaker Stephen Jerome

My Father’s Tools from Wapikoni mobile on Vimeo.