Leaders We Admire: Jane Difley
President/Forester, Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests
Concord, New Hampshire
For 22 years, Jane Difley has helped lead the effort to protect New Hampshire’s forests. In honor of her efforts, she was awarded the first-ever Alnoba Moral Courage in Leadership Award last year. Now on the verge of retirement, she reflects on her years of service to the Society.
Foundation: How did you choose forestry as a career?
Difley: I was always interested in the outdoors and how I could do something practical to protect the environment, so I decided to go to forestry school. At the time, I barely knew the difference between a pine tree and an oak! But I went to the University of Massachusetts and got a master’s degree in forestry.
Foundation: What does the Forest Society do?
Difley: We are known widely as a conservation organization and a land trust. We own about 55,000 acres of land all over the state, in about 185 reservations. We also hold conservation easements for other private landowners. We have a very active presence, both in the New Hampshire legislature and with our congressional delegation, advocating policies that we think are good for sustainable forestry, clean water, and land protection. And we do a lot of educational programs: we do a column in the statewide paper, we have a program with the New Hampshire Audubon on New Hampshire public radio, we do field trips, we have an award-winning quarterly magazine, and we do blogs and social media.
Foundation: What about the Forest Society are you most passionate about?
Difley: A lot of our members care about the Forest Society because we protect land—permanently—either by owning it or by having an easement on it or by facilitating a community, the state, or the federal government owning it. I went to school to be a forester, so taking care of the forests that we own or oversee—to me, that’s the really exciting part of what we do. That means welcoming people to our reservations and connecting people to the land.
Foundation: How does the Lewis Family Foundation help?
Difley: They have been very generous. We took the lead in opposing the Northern Pass transmission line that was going to run through 192 miles of the state of New Hampshire. The Foundation was incredibly helpful with that. Also, being associated with the Foundation has helped us widen the circle of people we interact with. And Alan and Harriet and the Foundation offer a lot of inspiration. We’re very lucky they have a foothold here in New Hampshire.
Foundation: What’s your vision for the future of the organization?
Difley: I think new leadership is going to bring new energy and new vision to this organization. Like many land trusts, as we move into the future, continuing to protect the land we’ve already protected and managing it and making sure people have access to it are increasingly going to become a focus of the organization—even while we add more land to what’s protected.
Foundation: How about your own plans, post retirement?
Difley: It’s kind of daunting! I’ve been working since I was 15, so I can’t imagine not working. We’ve protected a lot of land during my 22 years here. I’d love to go walk on some of the new reservations that we’ve acquired. There’s nothing like going out on a piece of land that this organization has protected and know that it will always be forest and know that it happened while I was at the Forest Society.
Foundation: What would people be surprised to know about you?
Difley: I’m going to take tap dancing lessons!
The Forest Society welcomes contributions in support of its protection of New Hampshire’s pristine forests in perpetuity.
Tell us a little about yourself. Which do you prefer?
Chocolate or vanilla?
Reading a book or seeing a movie?
I’d rather read a book—then maybe see the movie.
Going for a hike or sitting by a fire?
That depends on the weather and the time of day!
Talking or listening?
I’d rather be in conversation where both happen.
Dogs or cats?
Dogs! I have a black Lab named Minnie Pearl.
Being interviewed or having a tooth pulled?
Having just had some dental work done, I’d much rather be interviewed!