Forester Michael Downey of Natick has been named the 2023 recipient of the Howard F. Mason Forester of the Year Award by the Massachusetts Forest Alliance.
A true native of Natick, Downey’s deep connection to forestry began in his youth, exploring the town forest with his father and working on a local organic farm. After getting a history degree at Westfield State University, Downey got a degree in forestry from the University of Massachusetts. His professional journey led him to the Kentucky Division of Forestry, where he worked as a Service Forester, collaborating with landowners on managing their woodlands and implementing conservation practices on farmland. Family considerations brought him back to Massachusetts, leading to his role as a Service Forester for the Department of Conservation & Recreation, first in Berkshire County, then in the North Quabbin region, and recently in the Natick area.
As a state Service Forester, Downey works with landowners, foresters, timber harvesters and towns across his 35-town district in Middlesex, Norfolk & Worcester counties to promote sustainable forest management, and conservation of local woodlands. He serves as the coordinator of the state Forest Stewardship Program.
Having grown up exploring the Natick Town Forest, Mike has helped to revive the very popular annual Town Forest Conferences that allow municipal officials and residents to see different forms of forest management and recreation uses for town woodlands.
He has also helped organize numerous educational programs involving forestry, most recently a one-day workshop on forest soils this fall. He also helps put on the Massachusetts Envirothon, the natural resource education program for high school students
In Natick, Downey has volunteered his time to coach hockey and now serves on the Natick Conservation Commission, Natick Community Preservation Committee, and Natick Organic Farm Advisory Board.
In nominating Downey for the Mason Award, forester Ross Hubacz said that he had consulted with Downey many times on issues concerning clients’ woodlands and found that Downey provided many suggestions about how to handle them.
“Mike is the true personification of a professional forester,” said Hubacz. “He always stresses that his job is to be helpful when he can”.
The Mason Award is named after pioneering forester Howard Mason who helped establish better forestry practices in Massachusetts. It is presented each year to a forester who exemplifies Mason’s legacy of mentoring, leadership, and excellence in forestry.