President, Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests
Concord, New Hampshire
Founded in 1901, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests is a conservation organization tasked with protecting these lands for future generations. Its president, Jack Savage, shares his thoughts on how the Forest Society pursues this mission.
Foundation: How did you become interested in this line of work?
Jack: I’m a certified tree farmer, but I’m not a forester and I don’t have a natural resources degree. Instead, I came into the work through being involved in my local community. I came to believe very strongly that if you want to protect certain areas of the town, you can’t rely on regulation to do so. You need to go out and proactively protect it.
Foundation: How did you become involved with the Forest Society?
Jack: I began working with the Forest Society in my hometown about 20 years ago. When the Forest Society was looking for a VP of communications and outreach, it looked like a good match. So I came to work here and have been working here for 15 years.
Foundation: What about the Forest Society’s mission or goals are you most passionate about?
Jack: Here at the Forest Society, we welcome at least a quarter of a million people a year to our 190 reservations. Those are the very people we need to help us support the ongoing stewardship of those lands, like the maintenance of trails. One of the things I’m passionate about is finding a way to engage people who personally are enjoying the public benefit we provide and getting them involved as volunteers.
Here at the Forest Society, too, climate is something that we need to address in a more significant way. There’s clearly a connection between forests and climate change. New Hampshire isn’t a big state, but we’re well-forested, so we represent one hope in the world of mitigating climate change. Step one is keeping those forests as forests whenever and wherever possible, but there has to be much more that we can do. We’re endeavoring to put together a comprehensive program for us to address climate change.
A third thing is that I believe very strongly in facilitating conservation for all demographics and all people. Protecting our resources benefits us all, so I think it’s really important that we not just work where the money is, but we work where the resource has very high conservation values that warrant its protection.
Foundation: How does the Lewis Family Foundation support the Forest Society?
Jack: We’re an education and an advocacy organization, and they have been very supportive of our advocacy efforts. We were very involved in the effort to push back against the proposed Northern Pass transmission line, and Alan [Lewis] and the Foundation were very helpful in a variety of ways.
Also, we’ve been around for 119 years as a conservation organization, and we have every intention of being around for decades and centuries. Alan and others in the organization bring a larger, longer-term vision to the table, and they encourage us to have a broader and longer-term vision ourselves.
Foundation: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
Jack: I enjoy working on my tree farm. We’re coming up to sugaring season, and I have a very small hobby sugar house, so I spend long hours making maple syrup. I also happen to be a sailor and enjoy getting out on the Gulf of Maine.
Foundation: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
Jack: I enjoy snowmobiling. Sometimes that surprises people involved in other environmental organizations. But snowmobilers understand an important concept of conservation, and that’s connectivity. In conservation, you look to link protected lands as best you can. The enemy of that connected landscape is fragmentation—roads and subdivisions, that kind of thing. Snowmobilers understand that if they lose even a quarter of a mile of trail, it means the whole trail is no longer usable, because you can’t go through. So we’ve been able to get snowmobilers to help us protect a number of key parcels.
Tell us a little about yourself. Which do you prefer?
Chocolate or vanilla?
Vanilla—with a little New Hampshire maple syrup on it
Reading a book or seeing a movie?
Reading a book, no question. My house is filled with books. Overflowing with books!
Going for a hike or sitting by a fire?
That’s kind of a toss-up. I like sitting by the fire after a hike!
Talking or listening?
I like talking, but it’s really listening that enables good communication.
Dogs or cats?
Being interviewed or having a tooth pulled?
Oh, being interviewed, no question! I like being interviewed. It’s fun.