Maine in Chile: International Conservation Finance Conference

Posted by Katherine Birnie, Conservation Innovation Program Manager

I’ve just returned from Valdivia, Chile and am still adjusting to the near-ninety degree temperature differential.  Chile and Maine share some similarities, among them: latitudes with lingering summer light; a beautiful rocky coast; and an evolving history of visionary conservation work.

Maine-students.jpgMCHT Board member Forrest Berkley and I had the good fortune to join 100 land conservation practitioners and students from both North and South America last week for shared learning at the Conservation Capital in the Americas conference, convened by Harvard University and the Universidad Austral de Chile.  Maine was well-represented.  Jim Levitt, Director of the Program on Conservation Innovation at the Harvard Forest, directed the conference and has protected over 100 acres of land on Little Tunk Lake in Sullivan.  Blair Braverman, Chris Morrell, Laura Wurst, and Emily Guerin - students at Colby, Bates, University of Southern Maine, and Bowdoin respectively - were selected to attend based on outstanding conservation finance ideas they submitted to the Conservation Finance Forum. Our deep appreciation to the Horizon Foundation for generously enabling Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Maine students this opportunity.

Together, the assembled students and practitioners spent five days discussing experiences and insights on new methods for financing conservation.  We explored topics ranging from limited conservation development to sales of forest carbon credits to municipal transfer fees dedicated to conservation.  We also shared notes with Chilean colleagues on the evolution of private land conservation in the US, of which Maine Coast Heritage Trust was an integral part.  Chile is poised to pass national legislation enabling conservation easements and related tax benefits.  Their work will serve as a catalyst for other South American countries to follow suit.  We look forward to continuing this dialogue with our Chilean colleagues and to continuing the dialogue about new financing mechanisms with colleagues from both hemispheres. 

If you’d like to share your ideas with me directly, you can email me at

1 Comment

As one of the students who attended the conference, I can say firsthand that this was an absolutely incredible experience! Not only was it a wonderful opportunity to be able to meet so many experts in the field of conservation finance, but staying in Chile was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Everyone was so open and welcoming, and the ideas that they shared were truly eye-opening for me as a student. I wrote more extensively about the trip for my blog on the Colby website,

(And I so enjoyed meeting the lovely Katherine Birnie!)


Blair Braverman

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