On September 1, Steve Long will be leaving Northern Woodlands for a fellowship at Harvard Forest. Long founded the magazine with Virginia Barlow, and served as editor and executive director from 1994 to 2010. “There are hundreds of people I feel like I need to say goodbye to,” Long said recently. And so we asked him to do just that. — ED
I love my work. All I have to do is make a phone call and before long I’m with an expert searching for timber rattlesnakes on rocky ledges, grading veneer logs on a frozen landing, sloshing through alder swamps evaluating woodcock habitat, or breathing in the essence of white pine at a sawmill. I’ve cradled a black bear cub in my arms and swung a baseball bat made for Willie Mays. What a fantastic beat for a journalist who loves the woods.
The business side of it has been similarly fascinating, which initially came as a surprise, though it shouldn’t have since doing business means talking with people, and I happen to enjoy that. I can count among my good friends people I’ve met through business: advertisers, government staffers, financial backers, counterparts at other organizations, and business advisors. And then, of course, there are the countless writers and photographers I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and whose skills have made this magazine what it is. Northern Woodlands has enriched my life in all these ways.
But 18 years is a long time to do anything – even something you love – so I’m stepping away from the organization I founded with my friend and neighbor, Ginny Barlow. We’ve weathered some lean times, leaner than I’d care to admit, but now Northern Woodlands is positioned to have a long and bright future. The staff is top notch, the board of directors is deeply committed, and we’re supported by a community of generous donors, some whose largesse qualifies them to be called angels. With all that in place, I can move along with great confidence that what I’ve helped create will thrive.
In September, I’m heading off to a year’s fellowship at Harvard Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts, where I’ll research the 1938 hurricane and its effects on our forests. I’ve long been interested in this event – ever since I learned that my 95 acres of woods in Corinth were blown down and salvaged in 1938. What surely must have been a catastrophe for its owners seven decades ago has turned into a beautiful, productive forest. The woods that have served as my classroom for identifying birds and plants, hunting deer, and managing timber began as a sea of saplings when the sugar orchard was uprooted 73 years ago by the rain and wind. Forests change, and I want to tell that story.
So while I’m leaving Northern Woodlands, I’m not leaving this world of forests and people. It continues to be my beat, and I plan to stay connected well into the future. I am blessed to have found work that is so rewarding. Over the years, I’ve been told by many readers, “I love Northern Woodlands. It’s the only magazine I read cover-to-cover.” I can’t take all the credit for that, but no words have ever pleased me more.