Cinda H. Jones
President, W.D. Cowls, Inc.Once referred to by the Boston Globe as the “energetic scion of a North Amherst lumber company,” Cinda Jones is the ninth generation to manage her family business, which today is the largest private land owner in Massachusetts.
Over the centuries, while managing forests and cutting timber, Cowls has also managed business interests in tobacco, onion and dairy farming; sawmilling; road & subdivision building; and retail building materials. Walter Dickinson Cowls built the Amherst to Sunderland Street Railway Company and hosted the depot on Cowls Road for a decade. He also built the Amherst Water Company that was eventually taken over as the municipal water supply.
Cinda got her start in the family business at age ten, cutting yellow triangles out of sheets of plastic for foresters to use as boundary markers. She worked her way up Cowls’ career ladder by scraping and painting fences and barns; sorting nails; stacking lumber; and being an assistant to the company’s administrative assistant. She graduated from Colby College in 1990, and received a Graduate Certificate in Business Administration from Georgetown University in 1995.
In Washington DC for ten years after college, Cinda held conservation and timber industry-related leadership positions including Marketing Director for the Cato Institute; Wood Marketing Director for the American Forest & Paper Association; Vice President of the National Forest Foundation; and Northeast Regional Director of the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation. In July of 2001, Cinda’s father convinced her she was “so good at managing non-profit organizations” that she should come home and manage the unprofitable sawmill, timberland, and real estate divisions of Cowls.
In 2002, the original Cowls sawmill, reportedly the first electric sawmill in the country, was struck by lightning and burned down. With a mandate from their father, Cinda and Evan Jones rebuilt the mill to specialize in producing up to 32’ long post and beam timbers for timber framers. In 2010 Cinda shuttered the sawmill after determining the 14 acres used for unprofitable log storage, lumber manufacturing, and lumber drying had higher and better economic use.
Today Cinda and Evan Jones are redeveloping the former sawmill and Trolley Depot site as The Mill District, the Pioneer Valley’s Eats, Arts & Entertainment Destination, www.TheMillDistrictNA.com. Since 1768 the site has housed Cowls Land Company headquarters and since 1980 the site has hosted Cowls Building Supply store. In 2014 Cinda and Evan built The New Trolley Barn – a 12,000 SF mixed use building hosting The Lift Salon and Jake’s restaurant, and the fanciest apartments in town. In the summer of 2015 Cinda and Evan completed a renovation of Sarah Cowls’ cow barn for Atkins Farms – Your Local Market. In 2018-2019, the next phase of The Mill District – 130 residential units and 22,000sf of commercial space, will be built by Beacon Community Development on six acres Cowls will lease for 99 years in exchange for the commercial real estate. The Mill District has three additional building sites being marketed and Riverside Park is another Mill District retail and residential opportunity. Two proximate large acre parcels in North Amherst are also ideal for improvement.
Cinda’s goals as President of Cowls are to increase acreage of timberland; diversity forest-based opportunities with a focus on solar energy; improve real estate holdings (focusing on The Mill District); and demonstrate Cowls’ position as a national land conservation leader. Most of all Cinda strives to leave Cowls’ tenth generation a more successful family business that they will be proud of.
President, Cowls Building SupplyEvan Jones is also a ninth generation owner of Cowls and he is President of Cowls Building Supply – the part of the business his father Paul Jones used to proudly call “the tail that wags the dog!” Evan has a degree in wood technology and studied management and engineering at UMass, Amherst. He spent a couple years away from the family business, working at a lumberyard north of Boston before he was called back to help run the rapidly growing retail building supply store.
Evan has successfully grown Cowls Building Supply in this age of big-box retail by having the area’s most experienced and knowledgeable sales staff and offering superior products and excellent customer service. Evan has also led all of the recent, major construction projects of Cowls’ including the sawmill reconstruction in 2005, building the 12,000 square foot mixed-use Trolley Barn in 2014, and the complex redevelopment of his great grandmother’s cow barn for Atkins Farms – Your Local Market.
Evan’s favorite days are in the summer when his son and daughters are with him working at the family business. He’s proud of the work ethic and responsibility they’re learning about the community and the environment and he’s making sure to pass down a family business they can be proud of.
Vice President of Timberland Management, W.D. Cowls, Inc.
Shane started his career at W.D. Cowls Inc. in January of 1997, working at the Sawmill and as a Forestry Technician after earning a degree in Forestry at UMASS Amherst. He became a licensed Forester in his early years at Cowls. Since 2004, Shane is fully responsible for the Forestry division of WD Cowls, Inc., the largest private landowner in the state of MA. Between 2006 and 2010 Shane also served as Cowls’ Sawmill and Planning Mill manager.
Shane’s focus today is on the active and sustainable management of Cowls’ several thousand acres of timberland in 30 Massachusetts towns and four counties. Shane, his team and subcontractors harvest over a million board feet of timber across several Cowls properties every year while also maintaining the environmental certifications for all Cowls timberland. In 2011, Shane worked to help put 3,486 acres in Leverett and Shutesbury into a conservation restriction which represented the state’s largest private land conservation project. A roughly 2,000-acre conservation project will be finalized in 2019. This project in Shutesbury, Pelham and Leverett helps protect the drinking water supply of the Quabbin Reservoir and the Town of Amherst.
In addition to sustainably harvesting timber, Shane is constantly assessing and managing the opportunities for Cowls land including acquisition, sand and gravel, cell tower sites, and solar sites. Shane carefully chooses green energy sites that allow Cowls to further its goal of maintaining wildlife habitat, hydrological systems and recreational opportunities in conjunction with other resource opportunities. Shane is helping Cowls help the state and country to achieve green energy goals by expanding the sustainable and renewable forest products managed on Cowls land to include solar energy.
Shane is from Attleboro, MA and today lives in New Salem with his wife Nicole and 5-year-old twin daughters Lily and Brooke.
Forest Stewardship Manager, W.D. Cowls, Inc.
Jacob started with W.D. Cowls in 2014. He lives in Whately, MA, with his wife Tara and has a Forestry Degree from UMASS. He is one of two foresters who manage thousands of acres of Cowls owned timberland across Western Massachusetts. His main duty is to ensure that each property is enrolled in the state’s current land use program for land under forest management. This program helps reduce property taxes and makes it economical to practice long-term forest management (it takes up to 80 years to grow a ‘mature’ tree suited for lumber). To keep each property enrolled, Jacob prepares a 10-year forest management plan that describes the condition of the forest and outlines activities that will help increase forest productivity and resiliency. This requires a thorough field inventory, data analysis and detailed property maps. Additional duties include forest cutting plan permitting and timber sale administration. Jacob identifies trees to be harvested and works with independent logging companies to ensure regulations are being followed on the ground. Every year brings different forest health challenges with regards to insect outbreaks, diseases and weather events. Believe it or not, Cowls foresters do not plant trees. Instead, they rely on seed that is spread by surrounding trees. Depending on the desired species, a small opening in the canopy up to a large clearing may be required to meet the light needs of specific species.