Conserving Land, Preserving History

I spent my summer as an intern at York Land Trust where no two days looked the same and there was no job too big or too small. When we worked outside, I could be monitoring, marking boundaries, checking the game camera, hauling wood chips, bucking up a tree, painting a barn with volunteers or mowing the lawn at the office. I quickly learned to bring with me a change of clothes because as soon as we were done outside for the day, we would focus on work that needed to be done inside.

Monitoring reports were usually at the top of the list but I also coordinated volunteer work days, managed the land trust’s social media accounts, and took part in Stewardship Committee meetings. Even when we were working in the office, I felt like I was making a difference and offering ideas that could help make the land trust even more accessible to all kinds of people, especially younger generations.

“I hope that I was able to give this internship as much as it’s given me. No matter what we were doing, I felt that I was always learning something new.”

Hints of history

One of the best parts of this internship for me, as a history major, was the way in which the rich and well-documented history of the area has been preserved through generations of families who are conserving their properties through easements.

On each property, we would find an 18th century cemetery or a cellar hole and well from an old homestead. As we walked along old roads tucked away in the woods, I imagine who could have walked these roads before us. The matrix of stone walls you find all over help to lay out an agrarian landscape from hundreds of years ago that would have otherwise been lost.

Conservation easements like Snowshoe Rock, the site of the 1692 Candlemas Raid which had significant historical implications in New England, will remain just as it was in the 17th century.  

Mcht IMG 7365 2000x1120b

Red Maple/Fern Wetland Community.

Sharing stories

While I did a bit of research on my own, landowners were delighted at the chance to talk about the history of the lands and houses, many of which predate the Revolutionary War. I could not have been more grateful to those who welcomed me into their homes and shared these stories with me. If it weren’t for those who have the vision to protect these special places, the land and the history behind it would be rendered insignificant. 

I hope that I was able to give this internship as much as it’s given me. No matter what we were doing, I felt that I was always learning something new, whether it was about a certain kind of flower we had seen in the woods that day or Blanding’s Turtle mating habits or how to create a map on GIS. Knowing that there is still so much more to learn about conservation has only propelled my interest in the field. By the end of this summer, I have such a greater appreciation for everyone who works so hard to protect these places, because it is not easy, it is not cheap, but it is so worth it.   

Sarah Oberink is a History major, Ecology and Environmental Science minor at UMaine in Orono. This summer she worked for York Land Trust.