Some dreams are worth waiting for. Eight years ago Susan Laskey and Maine Coast Heritage Trust began conversations about conserving her family farm on the western shore of Maquoit Bay in Brunswick. This June, after careful planning and consideration, 54 acres of significant wildlife habitat and open space, including some 2,000 feet of tidal frontage, were protected through a conservation easement that involved MCHT and other public and private partners.
“For many years it really bothered me that people would look at my land and the first thing they said was what I could do with it as a development,” Mrs. Laskey said. “But I wanted to protect it. I believe any land you can protect around the bay is beneficial to the bay.” With the threat of development removed and funds for management now available, Susan Laskey hopes that her seven children, who were all raised on the farm and supported its protection, will continue to use and enjoy the land.
The property was an active cattle farm until 20 years ago, and the easement allows for future agricultural uses on the upland section—well back from the shore to assure protection of the extensive wetlands. “With increasing pressure to develop farmland, we were pleased to work with Susan to assure that this family tradition could continue,” MCHT Project Manager Betsy Ham said. “This project is a good example of how a conservation easement can be used to ensure wildlife preservation and maintain traditional uses of the land.”
The project was supported by funding from the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Open Space Conservancy, Inc. (an affiliate of the Open Space Institute, Inc. with a lead grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation), Ducks Unlimited Inc., the Casco Bay Estuary Project Habitat Protection Fund and Maine Coast Heritage Trust. “The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust was a leading partner in this effort,” Ham said. “They helped us get grants and were key players in the fund-raising efforts.”
As with many easements that protect sensitive wildlife habitat or farm operations, the Laskey Farm easement does not allow public access. It abuts two other recently conserved parcels: a 124-acre public preserve owned by the town of Brunswick and a 43-acre parcel conserved by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. Together these three parcels protect 1.5 miles of contiguous shore frontage on this undeveloped side of the bay.
Mrs. Laskey’s ancestors first settled in the Brunswick area in the seventeenth century, and her grandparents began farming this property in the early 1900s. “I am very pleased to know that this land will forever remain as it has for my lifetime — a beautiful mix of undeveloped fields and forests sloping down to the quiet shores of Maquoit Bay,” she said. “My husband, George, was a shellfish dealer, and he would have been pleased that this conservation agreement will help maintain the health of the flats in the bay.”of undeveloped fields and forests sloping down to the quiet shores of Maquoit Bay,” she said. “My husband, George, was a shellfish dealer, and he would have been pleased that this conservation agreement will help maintain the health of the flats in the bay.”
Some aspects of MCHT’s work are easy to measure—acres of land protected, miles of trails built, etc. But these tangible accomplishments are often secondary to the values inherent in the land we protect, the wildlife that thrives because of our efforts, the satisfaction gained by landowners and conservation partners, and the community benefit of the protected places.
When Susan Laskey of Brunswick approached the Trust eight years ago about protecting her family’s farm on Maquoit Bay at the north end of Casco Bay, we knew the project would not be easy or quick. But we also knew that it embodied many of the values that define our work. The project provided an opportunity to balance coastal wildlife protection with conserving farmland, helped a family plan for the next generation, and extended nearby conservation gains. These results would not have been possible without strong collaborative relationships built over time — values that are hard to measure but critical to conservation success.
As you will read on page 3 the Land Trust Accreditation Commission recently notified MCHT that we have earned formal accreditation after an intensive review of our methods and history. Accreditation is an important milestone for the Trust and the culmination of two years of hard work and dedication. Our review of the Trust’s methods and standards encompassed all 40 years of our history (you can read the final installment of our three-part series on the Trust’s history below).
Accreditation doesn’t tell us anything about ourselves we didn’t believe already, but it tells those who may not know us well that we are accountable, credible and transparent, that we bring professionalism and a high level of excellence to our work and our relationships. It’s an affirmation of our values and our promise to uphold them.
Trust staff from every department cooperated on the accreditation application process, and it gave us the opportunity to hone our best practices not only on current projects, such as the Laskey Farm easement in Brunswick, but also to better prepare for future conservation efforts, such as the Mount Desert Island Land Conservation Initiative. This ambitious $10-million undertaking is designed to capitalize on almost two dozen unique conservation opportunities in one of Maine’s most treasured regions. It will require us to hold to our standards of excellence in land protection, stewardship and fundraising.
We’re honored that you’ve chosen to be a part of MCHT’s first 40 years. We look forward to meeting the challenges ahead as we continue to pursue our core mission of protecting the character of Maine for future generations.
The professionalism and accountability of Maine Coast Heritage Trust have been recognized at the highest levels within the national land trust community. The Trust learned in August that it had earned formal accreditation by the national Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent project of the Land Trust Alliance. Accreditation is an acknowledgement of the Trust’s commitment to meeting the highest standards of excellence, upholding the public trust and ensuring that conservation efforts are permanent.
The application process involved every facet of the organization, from record keeping to boundary marking, and brought together Trust employees from every department. “We really are a better organization for having gone through this process,” said Susan Connolly, the Trust’s Director of Finance and Administration and application project leader. “As a leader in the land trust community in Maine, it was the right thing to do.”
A total of 105 land conservation organizations in the United States have won accreditation since the program began in 2008, including two other groups in Maine – Coastal Mountains Land Trust in Camden and the Bangor-based Forest Society of Maine.
MCHT made the decision in early 2008 to apply for accreditation. The Trust was already familiar with the program — it had served as a test bed for some of the processes when the Land Trust Alliance was studying accreditation several years earlier, and David MacDonald, the Trust’s Director of Land Protection, had been serving as a volunteer member of the of the Accreditation Commission.
While rigorous and time consuming, the accreditation process needn’t intimidate smaller land trusts. To help land trusts prepare for accreditation MCHT’s Maine Land Trust Network administers the Maine Land Trust Excellence Program. “We provide a lot of support to land trusts that decide to step up to this,” said Connolly. Also, the Land Trust Alliance is using the first two years of experience to modify the program to maintain its rigor while reducing the time applicants spend completing the application.
“Accreditation gives a land trust the opportunity to demonstrate that it is accountable, credible and transparent in its operations,” Connolly said. “This was a great affirmation of what we do and why we do it. We hope many other land trusts in Maine will consider pursuing accreditation.”
MCHT’s earliest conservation successes took place in the Mount Desert Island region — from the quiet estuaries bordering Acadia National Park to the spruce-rimmed islands of Blue Hill Bay — and the Trust has been active there ever since. Today there are more than 20 high priority land-protection opportunities around the island, including Kitteredge Brook Forest, the largest undeveloped, unprotected property on MDI. To take advantage of these unique opportunities, MCHT is launching the Mount Desert Island Land Conservation Initiative — an ambitious protection effort aimed at maintaining and strengthening the island’s unique sense of place.
The Initiative targets four conservation areas: woods and watersheds, productive farmland, the western shore of MDI, and the Acadia land legacy (a partnership with Friends of Acadia to conserve privately owned land inside Acadia National Park). Kitteredge Brook Forest is a top priority, and the Trust has secured an option to acquire it for $2 million, less than half its appraised value, with the purchase option expiring in April 2011.
The Trust has an eventual goal of raising $10 million, through a combination of private donations, foundation grants, state and federal funding, as well as gifts of lands and easements. The Pew Charitable Trusts and an anonymous donor have pledged a 50 percent match to any qualifying donation made by March 2011. “We’re extremely grateful for the leadership of the Pew Charitable Trusts and our lead donor, and we hope their example will inspire many of our supporters who care so much about MDI,” said Sue Telfeian, MCHT’s Director of Development. For more information on how to help, contact Sue at 207-729-7366, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
MCHT field trips provide an opportunity to experience the beauty of Maine’s islands and estuaries, as well as discover the state’s natural resources and history. This year Maine Coast Heritage Trust hosted some 30 outdoor explorations of the Trust’s coastal preserves, drawing more than 300 participants who hiked the shorelines, kayaked among the islands, and learned from and about the people who live in these fragile and challenging environments.
The trips spanned almost the entire coast, from Casco Bay to the Bold Coast, and this year participants viewed an extraordinary diversity of wildlife. “We saw more than 60 bird species on the Frenchboro Long Island trip alone,” said Terry Towne, MCHT’s Regional Steward. The Trust’s field trip program is developing into a year-round offering. “Eventually we want to have something going on even in the winter months, such as snowshoe trips out to coastal preserves,” Towne said.
The third article in a three-part historical overview celebrating MCHT’s 40th anniversary.
The development pressure along Maine’s shoreline that characterized the 1980s abated briefly in the early 1990s, but soon returned — sending property values soaring and placing many unspoiled shorefront settings in jeopardy. Maine Coast Heritage Trust launched an ambitious campaign to generate more resources for coastal conservation. Richard Rockefeller, who chaired the $100-million ‘Campaign for the Coast,’ liked to cite Winston Churchill’s aphorism: “Play for more than you can afford, and you will learn the game.” “We couldn’t afford not to launch the Campaign,” Rockefeller reflects, “because the stakes were too high if we failed to act.”
Through this multi-year campaign, MCHT and its partners conserved more than 17,000 acres, 175 miles of shoreline, 31 miles of accessible trails, and 81 entire coastal islands. Equally important, the Trust expanded its network of partners and leveraged greater governmental and landowner support for land protection and stewardship. Longtime partners such as the Land for Maine’s Future Program, first established in 1987, continued to prove critical in supporting acquisition of gems such as Beech Hill in Rockport, Marshall Island in Jericho Bay and Whaleboat Island in Casco Bay.
The Campaign also vaulted the Trust into a new era of stewardship. When the Campaign began in 2000, Maine Coast Heritage Trust held 99 easements and owned 36 properties. By 2010, easements had nearly doubled and the number of properties had more than tripled to 125.
Over the last decade, MCHT has also forged much closer ties to the communities where it holds land — towns such as Castine (where the Trust now manages 293 acres); Cutler, Trescott and Lubec down east; and Rockport (home to MCHT’s popular Aldermere Farm and Erickson Fields Preserve).
Stronger partnerships with communities and local land trusts in the 1990’s led to shared work toward regional land conservation — pursuing projects defined more by nature’s contours than by human boundaries, such as the Mount Agamenticus to the Sea Initiative in southernmost Maine and collaborative efforts around Cobscook Bay in Washington County. MCHT has also worked consistently on its own “whole place” protection efforts, concentrating land protection in areas of outstanding natural beauty and value. “This focused and persistent effort has tremendous payback,” notes David McDonald, MCHT’s Director of Land Protection, “enabling the Trust to preserve the integrity of whole landscape features like inlets, basins, brook watersheds and archipelagos.” Each new success, decades in the making, affirms the vision and determination that have been central to the Trust from its earliest days and have served us so well during our first 40 years.
MCHT’s Development Group recently welcomed its newest member, Kyoko Ingalls, as its Major Gifts Manager. Kyoko brings more than ten years of experience as a prospect researcher, gift specialist, and development assistant, most recently as a Gift Specialist for the University of New England in Portland. She also has a broad knowledge of the information systems side of development. She and her husband live in Scarborough, near Pine Point, where they enjoy the beach and a variety of outdoor activities.
In September, Maine Coast Heritage Trust was honored to collaborate with the Maine Media Workshops in Rockport for a seminar on conservation photojournalism. Taught by longtime Maine Heritage contributor Bridget Besaw and Melissa Ryan, the workshop focused on helping professional photographers tell the visual stories behind conservation efforts. Two students — Diane Arjoon and Al Martin — were assigned to MCHT’s Aldemere Farm and the Erickson Fields Preserve. Other students worked with the Nature Conservancy and Coastal Mountains Land Trust.
Volunteers are a vital and integral part of the Trust’s work, and this past summer our MDI office benefitted from the many hours donated by Paul “PK” Fisher, who recently graduated from law school in Charleston S.C. PK helped MCHT on conservation priorities and outreach on MDI while spending the summer at his family’s property on Little Cranberry Island. We wish PK well as he has now returned to Charleston to take the bar exam next year.