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Paying Attention

Lately I’ve been meeting with other presidents and executive directors from land trusts across the country. From California, Iowa, Florida, and Maine we gather in that now all-too-familiar grid on a screen and discuss how each of our organizations is affected by and responding to all that’s going on in our country and across the world.

Confusion, uncertainty, grief—it’s all there. But each time we meet, hope, admiration, and inspiration are the feelings I come away with. The land trust community across the state of Maine and across this country is as strong and committed as ever.

As we grapple with the health and economic crisis brought on by Covid-19, the question I hear my colleagues asking over and over again is, “How can we be of service?” In response to the nationwide reckoning with systemic racism, I’m hearing my colleagues ask, “How can we do better?”

Land trusts are asking hard questions and digging deep. They’re forming and strengthening bonds with community partners to meet basic needs. They’re imagining and embracing new and better ways of protecting and caring for land and welcoming people to it.

Here in Maine, land trust preserves are getting more use than ever. While many of Maine’s most popular state and national parks were shut down earlier this year, people discovered land trust lands close to home. They walked new trails and soaked in new views. They watched spring return to Maine’s woods and waters. Nature was open, and people opened themselves up to it. We heard stories of wonder and gratitude from up and down and coast and all over the state—thank you for these places. And really, donors and supporters of land conservation, that thanks goes to you. With your help, we will work to welcome more people to the joy of these lands in the years ahead.

The crises our country is facing have revealed our connectedness—to each other and to the natural world. We are all part of imperfect human systems, and everything we do affects the systems of which we are a part, for better or for worse. In the face of this important and powerful revelation, I see the land conservation community imperfectly but valiantly moving forward. We’re paying attention to what’s important. We’re tapping deep reserves of strength. We’re seeing that change is possible when we come together.

When it comes to protecting this extraordinary coast and bringing its gifts to all, we can’t—we won’t—stop. There’s so much more work to do, and I’m so grateful we’re doing it together with you.

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