When I took on the responsibilities as executive director and publisher of The Center for Northern Woodlands Education (our formal moniker), the tangible parts of the organization were laid out on the table. I was to administer a school program serving some 5,000 students throughout the Northeast; a magazine with a print run of 15,000; a syndicated weekly nature column; geographically targeted stewardship manuals (The Place You Call Home series), and other special projects, including a stewardship book.

After three months on the job, I better understand the intangible part of what’s been built here – the spirit of this organization. Through meetings with donors, teachers affiliated with our school program, and readers (who hail from all 50 states and 16 countries), it’s clear that the work we’re doing strikes a chord. The gracious comments and glowing reviews I’ve been privy to have encouraged me and assured me that this is a not-for profit that is making a difference in the minds of our readers and on the lands they steward.

It has also become clear that, to borrow a phrase, it takes a village, and a whole lot of time and thought to manage all the moving pieces of the organization. At the heart is a small, dedicated staff consisting of Amy Peberdy, Chuck Wooster, Dave Mance, Emily Rowe, Steve Long, and Virginia Barlow. They perform a thousand tasks that keep the organization running. Consultant Lisa Cadieux painstakingly and elegantly designs each issue of the magazine. Dirk Van Susteren corrals and edits the various writers whose work appears in our syndicated newspaper column. Sandra Murphy develops the curriculum that connects magazine content with classroom activities tied to school and grade standards. And, of course, as will be readily apparent in the magazine you’re about to read, we’re graced with the talent and wisdom of the many wonderful writers and photographers we’re privileged to work with.

As I develop a better understanding of the organization, it is evident that the Northern Woodlands village has another vitally important community – its donors. While subscribers and advertisers provide two legs of our stool, the equally critical third leg is made up of foundations, corporations, and individuals. The reality is that the magazine and our other educational initiatives can’t survive without such support. The deep recession we all find ourselves in adds another challenge to our business model. All of this is to say that we can’t publish without your participation, be it in the form of a subscription, a contribution, or patronage of our advertisers. (Be sure to tell our advertisers you saw their ad in Northern Woodlands!)

On a more personal note, stepping into this organization is not without some intimidating factors. There are the very high standards that have been set; the delicate balancing act in a message that supports both using and protecting the natural resources within our forests; and then there’s that strong passion that so many of you have for the magazine in general. I’m inclined to adopt the physician’s oath of “first, do no harm” as my guide in leading the organization in its next chapter. Finding new revenue streams, exploring online and print modes of communication, and reaching the next generation of forest stewards are just a few of the challenges that we will address. I encourage you to drop me a line about these or other issues. My email is: walter@northernwoodlands.org.

In closing, let me pay tribute to Steve Long and Virginia Barlow, the co-founders of Northern Woodlands. They’ve done the long-term heavy lifting that has shaped and given strength to the organization. They’ve set the standards, found the balance, and built that strong bond with so many of you. Fortunately, they will remain close at hand as the new team charts new waters and explores new trails.


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