Conserving Land in Soil and Film
My name is Jennifer Clifford, and I’m a rising senior at Vassar College. I study geography and education at school, but this summer, I returned to my home state of Maine to participate in Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s Conservation Internship program.
Having grown up in Kittery, I’ve always had forested land just a few steps away at any time. Living in that environment, it hasn’t been hard to become a lover of the outdoors. But as a child, it is hard to think about why those lands exist the way they do—to not see the behind-the-scenes work that keeps a natural landscape the way it is. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past few years connecting with conserved lands at home—walking on trails throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to safely get out of the house with friends and family. But after spending some time working with my hometown’s land trust, I wanted to see more of what there was to land conservation. What efforts went into preserving Maine’s public lands that I didn’t know about, and who were the people who made that work happen? I applied to the MCHT conservation internship to find answers to those questions—and found myself at Three Rivers Land Trust wanting to capture them on film.
I’ve been quick to find that there’s no singular reason that people enter the land trust world. Conservation means different things for everyone, whether that’s making hiking trails, preserving land that you have a connection with, or restoring the health of damaged environmental sites. Exploring Three Rivers’ easement and fee properties has quickly opened my eyes to the work people put into making these efforts happen—and it’s been surprising how much of it happens from an office! For every hour I’ve spent trimming trails or pulling invasives on a property, I’ve used an equally important hour to create maps for management plans or read reports on the environmental state of an area. The office work isn’t as glamorous to shoot on camera, but it’s important that people know working for a land trust isn’t all about romping around the woods.
I hope that I can preserve the work that land trust members and volunteers do through film, just as we preserve the state of conserved properties. In my independent time this summer, I’ve been interviewing Three Rivers board members and stewards and capturing videos at volunteer events, all to show off why the land trust is so important. Throughout this, a recurring feeling about conservation has come up—people do it to make sure the land can be appreciated in the future. Though the state of conserved properties is always changing, they are areas meant to be appreciated by generations to come. I don’t know if my film will last quite that long, but I want it to inspire the next generation of land trust members to continue these conservation efforts. They should know what came before them and what they need to leave behind for those who come after them.
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“Writing the Land is an attempt to honor nature and our relationship with it in a way that is as equitable and transparent as it is deep and entangled. We intend to be as inclusive—to humans and places—as we hope the mantle of protection that land trusts offer can be. Our work will never be complete but gains strength, depth, beauty, and energy in a multitude of voices.” — Lis McLoughlin, editorRead More