By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
Jane Difley, who led conservation efforts to protect more than 290,000 acres during her 22-year tenure as president and forester of the Society for Protection of New Hampshire Forests, has received a national award and fellowship.
Difley, who on Oct. 1 retired from the state’s largest conservation group, “helped make ‘working landscapes’ a larger part of conservation” efforts, has been honored by The Land Trust Alliance.
The Alliance is a national land conservation organization, based in Washington, D.C. which is working to save “the places people need and love” by strengthening land conservation across America.
Difley received its distinguished Kingsbury Browne Conservation Leadership Award in Raleigh during the welcome dinner of Rally 2019: The National Land Conservation Conference on Oct. 18.
The award honors “an outstanding individual whose vision and creativity have resulted in extraordinary accomplishments for land conservation and the land trust community.”
It was named after the conservationist who inspired the Alliance’s founding in 1982.
A video produced for the award for Difley includes clips and praise from Jamey French, chairman of the board of the Forest Society, Susan Arnold, vice president of conservation for the Appalachian Mountain Club and William Dunlap, president of the New Hampshire Historical Society among many others.
It notes that during her tenure, Difley led efforts to double the amount of conserved land in the state.
Also interviewed in the video is Katharine Eneguess, president and C.E.O. of the Animal Rescue League of NH, Peter Stein, managing director of Lyme Timber Co., Beth McGuinn, executive director of the Five Rivers Conservation Trust in Concord, Will Abbott, vice president for policy and reservation stewardship at the Forest Society and its new director and her successor, Jack Savage.
Savage, her successor, is no stranger to the Forest Society, having served as its vice president for communications the past 14 years. He was named to the top job in September.
Savage states in the video that Difley “understands that in order for the organization to accomplish great things it needs to be more than her,” that it requires “a whole group of people.”
During the Northern Pass application process which took nine years, Savage said Difley helped advance the “conservation ethic” by extending those values to a lot of folks who would not consider themselves “tree huggers.”
Stein, whose company stepped in to purchase and help conserve the massive Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Working Forest Project, noted her exceptional leadership during the past nine years to successfully defeat the Northern Pass proposed hydro transmission line.
He said she led an effort “to defeat a visual nightmare.”
Dunlap, president of the New Hampshire Historical Society, said the Northern Pass effort could have been the “tombstone to her career” but ultimately, it was the “capstone.”
Difley will serve in the Kingsbury Browne Fellowship at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy for 2019-2020. She will engage in research, writing and mentoring with the Lincoln Institute, a think tank devoted to land policy based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“Jane is a visionary leader whose passion and accomplishments have made a meaningful and measurable difference in our community,” said Andrew Bowman, the Land Trust Alliance’s president, and CEO.
“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished during that time, and I want to thank all our members, trustees and staff for making it possible,” Difley said when announcing she would be stepping down.
“But for me personally, I’m ready to spend more time enjoying the New Hampshire forests that I’ve spent 22 years helping protect.”
The video shows Difley walking her black lab “Minnie” at the Forest Society’s conserved lands in East Concord.
“And from the organization’s standpoint, I think this is a good moment in time to transition to new leadership. The Forest Society is on a stable footing with a great board and experienced staff.”
During Difley’s tenure, the Forest Society focused on increasing the pace of land conservation in response to the loss of forests to development. The organization’s 2001 strategic vision, New Hampshire Everlasting, called for protecting up to 40 percent of the land area in every town.
In the past 22 years, the Forest Society more than doubled the size of its conserved Forest Reservations to 56,000 acres and was involved in protecting more than 290,000 acres overall in the state, including the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters in northern New Hampshire.
The Forest Society played a lead role in establishing the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program and implementing a dedicated source of funding.
Prior to coming to the Forest Society, Difley was the Executive Director of the Vermont Natural Resources Council and prior to that, she was with the American Forest Foundation as Vice President of Forestry Programs and National Director of the American Tree Farm System.
As a graduate student, Difley worked at the Forest Society as an intern.