In 2015, Michael Leff returned to his natural habitat in New England after many years in Philadelphia. Happily resettled in more northerly rural climes, he launched his environmental consultancy under the banner of Ecological Connections. The moniker captures his passion for making connections across varied landscapes – from urban to wilderness and from backyard habitat to landscape-scale – and among diverse people in all sectors. He pursues a calling to advance key initiatives that protect and heal the Earth and nurture its inhabitants.
Prior to embarking upon his consulting career, Michael gained extensive experience in a variety of environmental endeavors – with a strong foundation in the editorial realm before taking that turn toward the environment.
Currently, Michael is involved in a variety of initiatives – including such things as conducting outreach and research for regional Conservation Districts, promoting land- and water-based ecological restoration efforts, performing public tree assessments, coordinating cross-border collaboration among various environmental entities in Western Massachusetts and Southern Vermont, and advancing wide-scale habitat connectivity across the region. This line of work taps into many aspects of his multi-faceted expertise – identifying opportunities, developing work plans, coordinating partners, engaging landowners, supervising contractors, securing environmental permits, tracking countless details, and managing all activities from project inception through implementation. (See Key Projects tab for examples.)
Before his northern migration, Michael was a member of the Ecosystem Services team within the Davey Institute at the USDA Forest Service Philadelphia Field Station. In that capacity, he led the development of "The Sustainable Urban Forest: A Step-by-Step Approach," designed as a comprehensive guide for communities of all sizes. He also served as the Founding Ambassador of the Delaware River Basin Urban Waters Federal Partnership, which encompasses four cities in that tri-state region (PA/NJ/DE).
Previously, Michael was Urban Forestry Program Manager at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, where he helped launch a major tri-state tree planting campaign. Prior to PHS, he was Watershed Program Manager at the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, and before that, Land Manager at Awbury Arboretum in Philadelphia, where he led an ambitious watershed restoration project as well as a job training program for homeless adults.
In his original career, Michael gained experience in all facets of communications, especially involving editorial responsibilities with print publications and related media. For much of that time, he was Founding Editor of Consumer Reports on Health newsletter, which he guided from launch to sustained success. He began as a freelance writer and editor – an independent consultant at the very beginning.
Michael has long been highly involved in the Society for Ecological Restoration in various capacities, including as President of the SER Mid-Atlantic Chapter, Northeast North America Regional Representative on the SER International board, and now as Vermont state rep on the SER New England board of directors. 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. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Virginia.
(For additional details, see Michael Leff's LinkedIn profile.)