First has served the environmental and conservation communities in a
variety of capacities, and from his experience he has developed a
unique, powerful, and pragmatic vision for conserving America’s open
spaces. While completing his graduate studies in 1990, Mr. First worked
with the US Army Corps of Engineers; his thesis was on the high
sustainable economic value of Army Corps recreational water projects
and contrasting low agency budgets.
From 1991 to 1998 he worked at the US EPA in Washington, DC, as a
staffer and team leader. His primary focus was on national and
international pesticide and agricultural policy, and environmental
legislation. Much of the work involved classic risk-benefit
analysis and working with the globe’s largest agricultural businesses.
In 2000, Mr.
First was hired by two other legendary conservationists, Pat Noonan and
John Turner. He opened the Pennsylvania office for the Conservation Fund and served
as the group’s first Pennsylvania state director for three-and-a-half
years. During his tenure at TCF he developed a national reputation for
land conservation and leadership at the state level, and helped protect
about 60,000 acres in Pennsylvania. Among his more notable
accomplishments was the 12,000-acre Litke property acquisition and the
creation of a 1,200-acre dedicated ATV recreation area on it in Centre
County, the design and implementation of the 2,200-acre land protection
plan for the United Air Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County,
where he also led the negotiations for the acquisition of 800 acres
from PBS Coals and a donation of 160 acres from Consol Energy that
formed the foundation of the new national memorial, the acquisition of
the last parcel of Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg National Military
Park (the “Home Sweet Home” motel), the acquisition of 500 acres and a
mile of pristine shoreline on Lake Erie in partnership with the Western
Pennsylvania Conservancy and Reliant Energy Co., and the acquisition of
9,300 acres from Philadelphia Suburban Water Co. in Cumberland and
Northumberland counties. Mr. First led and assisted on many other land
protection projects, and conducted several ground-breaking planning
projects, including designing a land protection plan for 20,000 acres
of power utility lands along the Lower Susquehanna River, conducting an
assessment and mapping of all of Pennsylvania’s protected lands; Mr.
First also designed a cutting-edge GIS land protection analysis and
plan for Lancaster County in partnership with the Lancaster County
Farmland Trust, and served as a founding member and vice-chairman of
the highly successful Conestoga River Nutrient Credit Trading Project
in Lancaster County. Mr. First also initiated the first Forest Legacy
project in Pennsylvania, garnering $500,000 from the US Forest Service
with PA DCNR to acquire a conservation easement on 540 acres owned by
Glatfelter Paper Co. on the lower Susquehanna River.
|In 1998, Mr.
First left EPA to take an appointed position in the Tom Ridge
administration in Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation &
Natural Resources, where he served on the executive staff as Director
of Environmental Education & Information, under legendary
conservationist John C. Oliver III, the first secretary of PA DCNR.
First with Governor Tom Ridge and DCNR Secretary John C. Oliver,
at the December 15, 1999 official signing of the first Growing Greener
program, in Chester County, PA.
From December 2002 to March 2003 First served on the Governor Ed
Rendell Transition Team for Conservation and Natural Resources.
First served as the project lead for two prominent Conservation Fund
projects, both of which were described as “Gifts to the Nation” in the
Fund’s 2003 Annual Report: The acquisition of 800 acres at the Flight
93 national memorial, and the acquisition with Western Pennsylvania
Conservancy of the new 500-acre Erie Bluffs State Park on Lake Erie.
Mr. First left TCF in October 2003 and served as volunteer interim
executive director for the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy for six
months, while also continuing to serve on the board. While at CPC, he
moved the office to a premier location in downtown Harrisburg, got the
website up and running, wrote op-eds and garnered press with resulting
memberships, wrote a PA DEP grant, designed the executive director
position and advertised it nationally, and helped raise $100,000 for
operating costs from the R.K. Mellon Foundation —critical funding to
hire the full-time executive director. Mr. First served on the CPC
board for over three years and was board secretary when he resigned in
2004 to found Pennsylvania’s first and only state-based, state-wide
land trust, Penn’s Woods Conservation Trust (www.penns-woods.org),
where he serves as board president.
Early in 2004, while serving at CPC, Mr. First began to implement the
beginnings of Appalachian Land & Conservation Services Co., LLC, by
purchasing a critical 100-acre inholding at Bald Eagle State Park in
Centre County. By the spring of 2004, Appalachian was fully functional
and engaged in active land protection, donating conservation easements
to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
and carbon credits from 350 acres it had acquired at Bald Eagle State
Park to the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, setting the stage for
Pennsylvania’s first carbon credit transaction. The year of 2004
was spent acquiring land and developing leads on new acquisitions.
June, 2004, Josh First spoke at the National Press Club, as a
sportsman, conservationist, and businessman. First was one of
panel members hosted by the National Wildlife Federation from across
the country to discuss national environmental policies and the
results of a NWF hunter and angler survey.
First being interviewed by the press after speaking at the
National Press Club, June 2004, on the results of a NWF nationwide poll
of hunter and angler attitudes on environmental policies.
|In early 2005
Mr. First was a volunteer with the non-profit conservation community
and DCNR to promote a large environmental bond. As a businessman
he championed the bond’s sustainable development potential. Later
in 2005 he served as Treasurer for the Growing
Greener II Campaign (technically the “Pennsylvania Conservation
Campaign”), was a key member of the campaign committee and architect of
the campaign, actively lobbied the Pennsylvania legislature for several
months over the campaign, and successfully fundraised to support the
effort. Growing Greener II created a $650 million environmental
and conservation program.
|Mr. First has served as a moderator and
here for an
"Inside Out" TV intervew) and has spoken widely on
environmental protection, land protection, and conservation abroad, in
Pennsylvania, and at Land Trust Alliance rallies and many other
conferences and press events around the nation. He has testified
numerous times before the Pennsylvania Legislature on conservation
issues. He is a member and officer of many conservation groups,
including the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, Trout
Unlimited, the Pennsylvania Wildlife Federation, and the National Rifle
Association. He served a four-year term on the national board of directors
of Republicans for Environmental Protection (www.repamerica.org), is a
member of the Policy Council for 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, and from 2001 to 2009 was a member of the Policy Council for the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association. Mr. First
is Coordinator of the Pennsylvania Habitat Alliance, which annually convenes the state-wide conservation, hunting, fishing, and natural resource non-profit organizations in Pennsylvania, including DCNR, PGC, and PFBC. He is also a past member of the Harrisburg Rotary Club.
First speaking in Washington DC on September 8, 2005 at a
tri-partisan press conference on mercury standards held by U.S.
Senators Collins (R-ME), Snowe (R-ME), Leahy (D-VT), and Jeffords
(I-VT). Photo by Olivia Campbell
Josh First speaking at
Growing Greener II rally on January 25, 2005 at the Pennsylvania State
Capitol Rotunda. Photo by Joan Wilson
believes strongly in the power of private markets and in their ability
to advance environmental quality. He enjoys hunting, fishing, hiking, camping,
canoeing, and managing his own land for wildlife and native species.
five-minute Summer 2006 TV report on Josh taking his oldest children
hunting, click here;
the download can take up to two minutes depending upon your connection
speed) He is married to Vivian, an attorney; they have three children.
He owns a certified Tree Farm and Stewardship Forest, and is a
Cooperating Landowner with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
First speaking to county commissioners in Towanda, Bradford County,
October 2006, about federal environmental legislation
Josh First (in hat) serving as a Group Discussion Leader at the 2008 PALTA conference on oil and gas development
Josh First speaking about smart growth land development, Cumberland County, October 2008
Josh First speaking at Penn State School of Forest Resources, November 2008
|Josh First (in hat) leading a panel discussion on private investing for conservation outcomes at the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association annual conference in May, 2009, at the Penn Stater Hotel, State College, PA.
||Josh First participating in a panel discussion at a natural gas training session for Penn State Agricultural Extension agents at the Penn State Conference Center, August 2009.
||Josh First presenting on his experience with Brownfield Acquisitions and re-development at the Environmental Innovations Conference, Lehigh Valley, Pa, Spetember 2009.
holds a BA in Political Science from Penn State and a MA in Government
with emphasis on statistics and economics from Vanderbilt
University. He is a graduate of Westtown School in Chester