FALMOUTH — More than a century ago, after it was founded in 1843, Maine Audubon was at the forefront of the land conservation movement in Maine.

Now the organization’s newest executive director wants it to lead the nation.

Andy Beahm wants to make Maine Audubon known for unique, not-to-be-missed outdoor festivals; for connecting more people across Maine to nature through statewide outdoor events for many more than just its seven chapters; and for inspiring Mainers to become wildlife advocates.

The seven chapters are Downeast (Acadia), Merrymeeting, Midcoast, Penobscot Valley, Fundy (Washington County), Western Maine and York County.

Before Beahm is done leading Maine Audubon, he wants the organization – with a current membership of 10,000 – to be a national model for wildlife advocacy and inspire people across the state to choose sustainable products, buy native plants, embrace green energy and even go to Augusta to lobby for conservation legislation.

“I would love for Maine to be the best example in the nation of people who are successful at living sustainably with wildlife,” Beahm said. “When I deep think about why I live in Maine, and why I have chosen to spend my life here, the more you travel and see amazing places, the more you realize what we have in Maine is world-renowned and should never be taken for granted.”

Andy Beahm, the new executive director of Maine Audubon, rides through Gilsland Farm in Falmouth during his morning commute. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

Beahm, a native of Limestone in Aroostook County, retired in December after working for 34 years for L.L. Bean, where he served as vice president of business transformation, vice president of brand services and director of strategic planning, among other roles.

He took over as Maine Audubon interim director in January and was named executive director in June.

Beahm said his experience at L.L. Bean make him uniquely suited to extend Maine Audubon’s reach around the state and to make it nationally known as an important player in wildlife conservation.

“When you think of L.L. Bean, it’s an organization that prides itself on executing well. A key part of L.L. Bean being L.L. Bean is its great service,” Beahm said. “And you can’t give great service if you’re fumbling the ball. During my time there, I saw the organization able to take advantage of growth in a way that was well-managed and well-executed. That’s what I bring to Maine Audubon.”

To that end, he plans to roll out festivals that are rooted in Maine’s traditions, Maine’s stories, and lessons in conservation. It’s something Maine Audubon has always done, but Beahm wants these events to be unique “legacy” events. He envisions these new festivals being as popular as Portland’s Old Port Festival, and certainly as well known. Beahm intends to make Maine Audubon relevant to a whole new audience.

He wants people who come to Maine to think of Maine Audubon as more than just the Falmouth campus at Gilsland Farm. Beahm also plans to increase Maine Audubon’s reach across the state, growing the seven chapters with more shared events and work done between the chapters.

John Berry of the Merrymeeting Audubon Chapter, and a member of the Maine Audubon board of directors, said Beahm’s experience at L.L. Bean directly relates to the work of the nonprofit conservation organization.

“He wants to make Maine Audubon a symbol of the state and a symbol of the outdoors in the state. He has a skill set from L.L. Bean that is transferable,” Berry said. “It’s similar, because L.L. Bean didn’t start as an international company. It started as a Freeport business and expanded. I think that same growth is key to Maine Audubon, as well.”

Andy Beahm Beahm, a native of Limestone in Aroostook County, retired in December after working for 34 years for L.L. Bean, where he served as vice president of business transformation, vice president of brand services and director of strategic planning, among other roles. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

A week after a chapter conference that included all seven chapters, other Maine Audubon members think Beahm can deliver as promised.

Bob Duchesne of Hudson, who is on the board of the Penobscot Valley Audubon Chapter and a state representative who sits on the Legislature’s committee on Environment and Natural Resources, said the timing is right to extend Maine Audubon’s reach statewide because of the improving economy. And with Beahm guiding Maine Audubon, Duchesne thinks it will happen.

“Andy is from Aroostook County. He knows northern Maine,” Duchesne said. “Previous directors had somewhat of a different vision than expanding the mission statewide. Maine Audubon is already at the forefront of wildlife watching trips with statewide appeal.”

Sue Shaw of Penobscot, a member of the Downeast Audubon Chapter, said she was excited for the organization’s future after listening to Beahm’s talk at the chapter conference.

Shaw said when she joined the Downeast chapter after she retired in 2008, it opened her eyes to many things, such as shopping for wildlife-friendly products – like buying shade-grown coffee, which protects bird habitat, or avoiding products packaged in Styrofoam.

“If you look at the state map and where the chapters are, there is a lot of white space,” Shaw said. “But there are people in those areas that care about wildlife and ecology. But when I joined, we kind of thought of Maine Audubon as Falmouth Audubon. It didn’t have anything to do with our chapter because we never saw anyone (from Maine Audubon). But that has changed recently. Now we are in contact with them quite a bit.”