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Catoctin Forest Alliance kicks
 off preservation effort

Chris Patterson

(5/1) Over fifty people met at Camp Greentop on April 21 to launch the Catoctin Forest Alliance, a nonprofit organized to preserve the Catoctin Mountain forest and accompanying watershed areas.

It was not an accident that the organization met on the 39th anniversary of Earth Day.

But they were not there to celebrate that birthday, but rather the birth of an alliance of private landowners, businesses, non-profit organizations, and local, state, and federal agencies working together to "preserve and promote the health of the Catoctin Mountain forest for the enjoyment of present and future generations," announcements of the event stated.

Michael West, CFA's president, told everyone that about 80 percent of the region is owned by private landowners. Only 20 percent is dedicated to park land and protected watershed areas like the Frederick City watershed. The Catoctin Forest area served by the CFA runs the length of the mountains north to the Pennsylvania line and south into the Ballenger Creek area.

The event was a "meeting of minds" during which attendees brainstormed about how this new organization, an outgrowth of the former New Forest Society, would accomplish its mission. The New Forest Society was started by area resident and artist, Elizabeth Prongas, which had its final meeting in March. Prongas said the CFA is a collaborative effort with which the New Forest Society has merged.

Discussion topics for the eight small group sessions included environmental education, accessibility and recreation, watershed protection,wildlife diversity and preservation, and plant diversity and preservation.

Deputy Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Eric Schwaab, a featured speaker at the meeting, told the attendees that the place-based work they were doing in the CFA will be the history of the environmental movement.

He talked about the challenges the environmental community is facing, noting that the Catoctin Forest is recognized by his agency as a "significant ecological area" and promising the DNR will work with the CFA.

"One of the things we recognize is that we can very strategically and very effectively in a lot of ways

help support you in addressing the local challenges that you have identified, that you face, and that you are working on here today," Schwaab said.

Among the attendees were Schwaab, Prongas, Catoctin Mountain Park superintendent Tom McFadden and current superintendent Mel Poole, Maryland Magazine publisher Ross Peddicord (a CFA board member), County Commissioner Kai Hagan, former Frederick Mayor Jennifer Dougherty, Elizabeth Prongas - CFA board member and president of New Forest Society and Frederick County Tourism Council Director John Fiesler.

As a tribute to the work done by Prongas regarding preservation and protection of the watershed and forest, Catoctin Forest Alliance's board of directors created an award named in her honor, and presented that first award to Dr. James H. Gilford, a columnist for the Frederick News Post, a fly fisherman, scientist, educator and a strong voice for conservation.

For more information about the Catoctin Forest Alliance and its first public meeting slated for May 31, go to