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Donation conserves 113 acres of forest

Submitted Photo Deborah and Ted First on the forest property they donated to the Foundation for Sustainable Forests.

ELLERY — A 113-acre woodland has been donated to the Foundation for Sustainable Forests, a land trust based out of Northwest Pennsylvania. The property was donated by Chautauqua residents Ted and Deborah First, who want to see the property forever protected as a healthy, working forest.

The conversation to conserve First Forest began in 2017. The Firsts felt that in order to best steward the land they so love, they needed a partner, and after nearly five years as owners, the Firsts decided to team up with the Foundation for Sustainable Forests.

“Conservation without a plan or engagement,” Ted First said, “is really moving backwards.”

Under the stewardship of the Foundation for Sustainable Forests (FSF) the property, to be known as First Forest, will remain active in the local community, staying on the tax rolls and providing jobs through sustainable forest management.

Says FSF Executive Director Annie Maloney, “The Foundation for Sustainable Forests is thrilled and honored to be entrusted with the conservation and stewardship of First Forest. We look forward to hosting woods walks and other events there to raise awareness about the importance of thoughtful, careful management as a tool to enhance forest diversity, health and overall resilience.”

With a headwater stream meandering through the forest toward Cassadaga Creek, Ted First describes the land as a “rich, wonderful” area. He envisions First Forest as “thriving” in 100 years, with a century of thoughtful management and the Foundation’s “worst-first” approach to tree selection and stand improvements.

Now retired and enjoying all seasons in Chautauqua with children and grandchildren, the Firsts will retain about 7 acres of the 113-acre parcel, through which they will have access to a meadow and cabin for continued use. Their donation is not the first they’ve made to a land trust or conservation organization. They previously donated 30 acres of wooded Chautauqua County property to the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy.

As a testament to the Firsts’ desire to spread the word about sustainable forestry in western New York, the FSF plans to host an educational woods walk for area foresters and forest landowners in the spring. In March, Annie Maloney and FSF Land Manager Guy Dunkle will offer a presentation about forest management for overall health and resilience at the Audubon Community Nature Center in Jamestown.

With offices in Spartansburg, Pa., the Foundation for Sustainable Forests is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit land trust and advocacy organization working throughout western Pennsylvania, western New York and northeastern Ohio. The mission of the FSF is to protect forested lands, promote healthy ecosystems, support rural communities through working forests, and highlight sustainable forestry practices in the region. The conservation of First Forest is their first completed project in New York state.

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