Membership and Policy Council (MPC)

MPC 2018 Elections

Forest Stewards Guild professional members in good standing have the opportunity to elect three representatives to the Guild's Membership and Policy Council. The MPC 1) supervises the development of Guild policy and position statements and the modification of our mission and principles, 2) addresses issues related to membership and member services, and 3) selects the members of the Membership and Nominating Committee in conjunction with the Board of Directors. Voting for the 2018 election runs through Friday, December 15, 2017. Professional members have been emailed ballot instructions. Contact Deb Saeger at or 608.333.0551 if you haven't received your ballot or have questions regarding the election. We thank the following candidates for their willingness to serve.

John Gunn Mark Jacobs
Michael Leff Eben Sypitkowski

John Gunn, Cumberland, ME

Dr. John Gunn has held an appointment at the University of New Hampshire with the NH Agricultural Experiment Station and UNH Cooperative Extension since August of 2016. Prior to that, John was the executive director of a small non-profit research group called the Natural Assets Laboratory. John has a B.S. in wildlife management from the University of Maine, an M.F.S. from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and a Ph.D. in biology from the University of New Brunswick studying the landscape ecology of forest songbirds. He has a broad background in sustainable forestry and conservation. John’s past work with private landowners includes extensive work developing large conservation easements and evaluating carbon offset market opportunities. His recent work has focused on the greenhouse gas accounting of the forest products sector and developing the tools and science necessary to implement payments for ecosystem services programs (such as carbon sequestration and drinking water quality) involving forest landowners. Current projects include research to understand the impacts of invasive plant species on forest ecosystems and what foresters can do to minimize or avoid those impacts. He lives in Cumberland, Maine with his wife and daughter and plays banjo in a folk band.  
Candidate Statement
I’m proud to have served the Forest Stewards Guild for the last three years on the Membership and Policy Council – most recently as the chair. This work has been fulfilling to me as a tangible way to engage with a group of forest resource professionals across the country that I greatly respect. I believe the Guild’s collective voice can and will be stronger on regional and national issues that intersect with the forest resource over the next few years. As such, the MPC’s policy statements are an important way to articulate the Guild’s perspectives and I hope to be able to continue in a second term as we look to leverage existing policy statements and develop new ones as issues emerge. Over the last year I have also been getting settled into a new academic role after many years in the non-profit sector. I hope to use this role at UNH to focus on the recruitment of student members across the country in both traditional forestry programs, but also more broadly in other natural resource fields. I hope you will give me the opportunity to continue to serve the Forest Stewards Guild on the MPC for the next three years.


Michael Leff, Williamsburg, MA

Michael Leff is sole proprietor of Ecological Connections, an eclectic environmental consulting service in western Massachusetts. Before launching his consultancy, Michael was a member of the Ecosystem Services team within the Davey Institute at the USDA Forest Service Philadelphia Field Station. While there, he led the development of "The Sustainable Urban Forest," a comprehensive guide for communities of all sizes, which was published and released to the public last year.  Previously, Michael was Urban Forestry Program Manager at the PA Horticultural Society, Watershed Program Manager with the PA Environmental Council, Land Manager at Awbury Arboretum, and a founder of the Society for Ecological Restoration Mid-Atlantic Chapter. An ISA-certified arborist, he has served as president of the Pennsylvania Urban & Community Forests Council and is a member of the International Society of Arboriculture, the Society of American Foresters, and the Forest Stewards Guild. Prior to his environmental career, Michael worked for many years in all facets of communications, especially involving print publications and related media. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Virginia.

Candidate Statement
Since I first learned of the Forest Stewards Guild, I have been drawn to its progressive and far-sighted approach to the field of forestry. Drawing on those principles, I recently completed the development of "Sustainable Urban Forestry Standards," which I initiated during my tenure with the Davey Institute at the U.S. Forest Service Philadelphia Field Station. More recently, I relocated to Western Massachusetts, where I am an independent consultant under the banner of Ecological Connections, and I continue to participate in the Forest Stewards Guild Northeast Section. I also remain highly involved in the Society for Ecological Restoration, having served as Northeast North America Regional Representative on the SER International board, and currently an advisor to the SER New England Chapter. While I am most experienced in urban and community forestry, my passion for trees and forests extends well beyond the urban core, and I appreciate the opportunity to branch out, so to speak. In addition to the all-important issue of climate change, one area of particular interest to me is the issue of forest fragmentation - and finding ways to stitch the fabric back together wherever possible. I would welcome the opportunity to serve on the Membership and Policy Council as a way to deepen my involvement in the Forest Stewards Guild and increase my contribution to the organization.  

Mark Jacobs, McGregor, MN

Mark Jacobs is the Land Commissioner in Aitkin County, MN, and is responsible for the management of 222,000 acres of County administered forestland in this north-central part of the state. This forestland has been FSC certified since 1997. The County is small in population (16,000) but large in area (1.2 million acres, 2/3 forested.)  Aitkin County is 2 hours from the Twin Cities, resulting in both rural and urban influences in these forest-based communities.

Mark is an example of working up through the ranks from on-the-ground forester to prescription writing/planning to administration/policy.  While he doesn't actively seek the spotlight, he has a history of "quiet leadership" by taking on tough issues in the region, such as 3rd party forest certification, promoting local, value-added, forest products, proactively managing motorized recreation, leading a forestry carbon project and research and promotion of bat friendly forestry (for which he received 2 state-wide awards.)

Mark has been involved in forest-based issues on local, regional and national scales including the FSC-US Lake States Working Group. In 2015 he received the FSC-US leadership award. Aitkin County is home to the first Forest Stewards Guild model forest in the Lake States region.

Mark has an AAS degree in Natural Resource Management from Vermillion College, Ely, MN. He was a field forester from 1980-89 with the Aitkin County Land Dept, and Assistant Land Commissioner (field supervisor from 1989-2005.  He as been the Land Commissioner since 2005.

Candidate Statement
Being a member of the Forest Stewards Guild Membership and Policy Committee is an opportunity for me to contribute and learn. I’ve been a FSG member for well over a decade; and I support and promote the values. I have worked to increase the Guild’s presence in the Lake States region, hosting a regional meeting, a field tour at the recent national meeting, and attending and presenting at meetings in WI and MI.

I believe that the Forest Guild can play a significant role in advancing the concept that what forest stakeholders of diverse backgrounds have in common (the forest) is bigger than what divides them. If we use a collaborative approach, focusing on the forest first we can establish partnerships that can lead to win-win situations for the forest, stakeholders, and forest dependent communities.

My goal as a MPC member would be to work with our membership to establish thoughtful, reasonable, collaborative, and proactive policies and positions to influence how forests are managed and to attract new like-minded members representing diverse stakeholders. 


Eben Sypitkowski, Millinocket, ME

Eben's study of the woods began in high school when he snipped the first winter twig for a collection just outside of Bangor, ME. More recently, he has been blessed with the dream job of working as the Resource Manager in Baxter State Park. This involves not only the pleasure of managing a forest with an ironclad mandate to be managed in perpetuity; but also the responsibility of contributing to the decision-making throughout the Park on their small administrative team. Prior to returning to Maine, Eben worked for the New England Forestry Foundation, travelling the northeast to monitor conservation easements. This provided him a sense of regional context for northeast forests, foresters, and natural resource organizations. Eben received his Bachelor’s from Bates College in Environmental Studies, his degree in hard knocks from the school of bloodworm digging and nail-pounding on the coast of Maine, and his Masters in Forestry from UMaine, in that order.

Candidate Statement 
I would be honored to contribute to the considered and thoughtful work of the Forest Stewards Guild. I love working in the woods, I love working with words, and I love working with the salt-of-the-earth folk who make up this fine organization. What better place to perform one's civic duty than in convention with other woods-walking wordsmithers? Despite the national politics, words do matter, and organizing them around the honorable duty of providing first for the forest would be a great pleasure.