Monday, May 20, 2019

PA Land Trust Assn. Honors Troy Firth With Lifetime Conservation Leadership Award; Stroud Township With Local Government Conservation Leadership Award

On May 18, the PA Land Trust Association honored Troy Firth with the Lifetime Conservation Leadership Award and Stroud Township, Monroe County with Local Government Conservation Leadership Award
Troy Firth
For over 45 years, Troy Firth has set himself apart as a responsible and thoughtful pioneer in sustainable forestry.
Since 1971, Firth has practiced sustainable forestry as the owner and manager of Firth Maple Products, producing and selling certified organic maple syrup while taking a different approach to sustainable timber harvesting.
Firth led the movement towards uneven-aged forest management instead of intensive even-aged management, a method that cultivates greater forest habitat diversity and ecosystem integrity.
In an era when mechanical tree removal is the status quo, Firth uses horses to skid logs on his 7,000 acres of forest, demonstrating that horses can meet the needs of industrial forestry without compromising the health of the forest floor.
In 2004, Firth founded the Foundation for Sustainable Forests (FSF), a land trust with the mission of protecting forested ecosystems while supporting communities through sustainably managed working forests.
To date, FSF has protected over 1,000 acres, with bequests of several thousand additional acres (including properties held by Firth and his wife Lynn).
In recent years, FSF hired its first executive director and received the first donation to its visionary shared gift program, in which a land donor dedicates a portion of all future timber proceeds to a local organization or institution. The gift program is another example of Firth’s commitment to interweaving conservation with community.
“Troy has taught me to truly think about what ‘perpetuity’ means to a piece of land,” said Annie Socci, executive director of the Foundation for Sustainable Forests. “The lifespan of a forest, if cared for, is far greater than any of us. In the woods, Troy thinks and manages on a time scale that matches that of both the forest ecosystem and the Foundation for Sustainable Forests as an organization. To do so takes patience, humility, and a unique long-term view.”
“In his 45 years as a leader in sustainable forestry, Troy has had a direct hand in the management of over 100,000 acres of Penn’s Woods,” said Jim Finley, director of the Penn State Center for Private Forests. “His leadership in the industry by creating and sustaining a ‘kind use’ standard of forestry that benefits both land and people has been exceptional. His enduring commitment to preserving working forests by protecting both forest ecosystem health and the economic health of rural communities is both steadfast and incredibly timely.”
Under Firth’s leadership, FSF has also pioneered a new model of land protection in which the timber it protects serves as a form of endowment: small, periodic timber harvests that are beneficial for the forest fund the Foundation’s operations and outreach initiatives. This model pioneered by Firth truly embodies sustainability, for both forests and the organization.
Firth has received numerous accolades from conservation and forest industry groups, including the Pennsylvania Tree Farmer of the Year Award, Forest Conservation Stewardship Award, and many others. In his 2013 essay “A Forest Conversation,” acclaimed author Wendell Berry wrote of Firth’s work:
“A forest, kindly used, will outlive unimaginably any of its trees.”
“Troy’s vision and dedication are inspiring,” said Andy Loza, executive director of PALTA. “On behalf of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association’s 75 member organizations and their 120,000 supporters, I thank him for his decades of leadership in protecting and sustainably managing Pennsylvania’s forests.”
Stroud Township, Monroe County
Many Pennsylvania municipalities are blessed with significant land and water resources. But Stroud Township, located in the heart of the Poconos in Monroe County, stands out as a leader in protecting open space for recreation, wildlife, and water quality in the face of population growth and increasing development pressure.
In 1998, township supervisors led the Monroe County Citizens for Open Space campaign, successfully authorizing $25 million for conservation. Then, in 2001, township voters approved a referendum to create an open space conservation program funded by a .25 percent earned income tax.
The first program of its kind in northeastern Pennsylvania, it has generated more than $8 million for conservation, permanently protecting over 1,200 acres in the township. Nearly 800 of those acres are open to the public for hiking, fishing, bird watching, and other activities.
The township also protects its natural resources through smart zoning and planning. Its zoning ordinance includes provisions to safeguard wetlands, steep slopes, streams, and the section of the Appalachian Trail that passes through the township.
The township has adopted a comprehensive plan to ensure that future growth does not come at the expense of open space or clean water.
Stroud Township demonstrates its conservation leadership by forming strong, productive partnerships with key stakeholders.
For example, the township teamed up with neighboring Stroudsburg and East Stroudsburg to create the Stroud Region Parks and Recreation Commission.
It also partnered with a local farmer to establish a community-supported agriculture program on township-owned open space, and worked with Pocono Heritage Land Trust and the Brodhead Watershed Association to develop the Brodhead Creek Heritage Center, a place for environmental education and community gatherings.
The township is currently working to acquire land along three major stream corridors to protect water quality and link up its streamside trail system.
“We are pleased to honor such a strong conservation leader,” said Andy Loza, executive director of PALTA. “On behalf of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association’s 75 member organizations and their 120,000 supporters, I thank the Stroud Township officials and volunteers for their outstanding efforts to protect, restore, and preserve open space.”
For more information on programs, initiatives and upcoming events, visit the PA Land Trust Association website, Click Here to sign up for regular updates from PLTA, Like them on Facebook, and Follow them on Twitter.  Click Here to support their work.
(Photo: Troy Firth (center); Stroud Township, Monroe County representatives.)
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