Maine’s land trusts provide the ground troops for the state’s conservation movement. Many Mainers have toiled for decades — most as volunteers — to protect, conserve and maintain our very best places.
While statewide organizations including The Nature Conservancy and the Forest Society of Maine lead the way, local and regional land trusts often generate the ideas and projects and sometimes even the money, often matched by Land for Maine’s Future and federal funds. Today, 100 land trusts work quietly and effectively throughout the state.
In Maine, state, regional and local land trusts are at work. Maine Farmland Trust, led by John Piotti, has protected some key farms in central Maine by purchasing development rights that make it possible for farming to continue on the land.
The Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine’s land trust helps keep smaller forest parcels undeveloped and producing timber, including a number of forest tracts in central Maine.
The Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance has done an amazing job of leading the effort that made 6,000 acres on and around Vienna Mountain public land. I spend a lot of time hunting and fishing in this wonderful place. It’s great to know that future sportsmen will have the same opportunities here.
One of my favorite groups is the Kennebec Land Trust, partly because it has purchased a few of my favorite off-the-beaten spots in Fayette, Wayne and Readfield. The 750-member trust owns 3,850 acres.
Its just-published booklet, “Your Woodland — A Resource Guide for Kennebec County Landowners,” is full of excellent advice and information.
My friend Howard Lake of Readfield has been a key volunteer for more than two decades, with a small cadre of others, and exemplifies the generosity of time and money that has made this land trust successful.
A few years ago, the trust published an extraordinary book, “Between Person and Place,” telling the conservation histories of some of its properties. One of the properties is the Macdonald Conservation Area, 100 acres in North Wayne behind the farm where my dad grew up. Dad and I have hunted this piece together for 50 years.
The Macdonalds bought the land in 1965, planning to farm it, but they never got around to that and donated it in 2004 to Kennebec Land Trust. It’s a beautiful piece of land along a meandering brook. Land trust volunteers have created walking trails and a registration box with maps and brochures.
“We were not really using the land, and to open it up to the public in some way was a great thing,” said Douglas Macdonald. Personally, I can’t thank him enough.
On Saturday, you can enjoy a free two-hour walk in the MacDonald Conservation area with a mushroom expert, beginning at 10 am. This is one of many October events sponsored by the Kennebec Woodland Partnership. To participate in the mushroom walk, be at the Macdonald Conservation Area parking sign on Kents Hill Road in North Wayne at 10 a.m., with your knife and basket.
Linda and I harvested 12 pounds of black trumpets in September — a very tasty meaty mushroom — but I think it’s too late to pick more of those. I’m sure they’ll find something edible for you.
The Kennebec Woodland Partnership is a unique collaboration among 11 state and local groups and land trusts, launched in 2010 by the Kennebec Land Trust and Maine Forest Service.
The partnership shares a common set of principles and brings individual tools and strategies together to address long-term conservation of Kennebec County’s forested landscape.
Theresa Kerchner, KLT’s executive director, alerted me recently to an extensive list of events scheduled by the Partnership this month as part of Kennebec Woodland Days. All are listed at www.maine.gov/doc/mfs/kennebecwood lands/. You also can call Amanda Mahaffey at 449-3070 for that information.
My favorite event — Woodland Cleanup Day, sponsored by the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine — will take place on Saturday. Contact SWOAM at 626-0005 for information. Or contact me if you’d like to pick up the mountain of trash that accumulates on a regular basis on my Route 41 woodlot!
On Oct. 27, SWOAM’s Tom Doak presents the “10 Biggest Mistakes Woodland Owners Make,” at Gardiner High School. I’ve heard this speech, and it’s both informative and entertaining.
There’s also the Family Woodlands Program in China on Oct. 22, hosted by Sebasticook Regional Land Trust, from 10 a.m. to noon at the China School Forest.
Isn’t it time you joined a local land trust?
George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.