In January, Andrew Bossie officially took on the role of running Friends of Katahdin Woods & Waters, a membership nonprofit founded just over a year ago to help Maine’s new national monument succeed. It’s got a 15-member board of directors, Bossie as executive director and so far, about 400 friends as members. We called Bossie up to talk and learned about his childhood in Caribou, how many peaks he’s climbed and what kind of help Katahdin Woods & Waters needs from its friends.

SNOWMOBILES AND SKIDDERS: Bossie spent his early childhood in Florida, with parents who ditched Northern Maine after getting married. He was 10 when he moved to Caribou with his father and then-stepmother, where they opened a restaurant and his father went to work for Cary Medical Center in food service. Snowmobiles, skidders and deep woods were everywhere. “That was really my understanding of the woods growing up – riding around in a truck with my dad looking for grouse and deer.” He came down to coastal Maine in 2002 to go to college at the University of Southern Maine and “quickly fell in love with this part of the state.”

ALL ACTION: He also plunged into activism, working with nonprofits and on ballot initiatives while he was still enrolled as a student and then, not long after he graduated, became the executive director of the Maine AIDS Alliance. “I think I was 22. It was 2007 and I was like, ‘I got this.’ And then the great recession hits and I am like, ‘I still have got this.’ ” And so he did, for four years, commuting to Augusta to work on fundraising for HIV/AIDS patients and service providers, as well as representing the cause in the State House.

PARKS AND RECREATION: While working in Augusta, Bossie was developing a serious obsession with hiking. “The entire time I started this professional career I would go into the woods. It started off with backpacking.” This was exploring on a different level than grouse hunting with his dad had been. “I would hike in the Whites and anywhere in Maine.” He has climbed 33 of the 48 peaks that are 4,000 feet or more in the White Mountains, although in classic mountain-climbing mindset, he thinks of this in terms of how many he has left (15). In Maine, he said he’s done “a lot” of mountains. Among his favorites is Traveler Mountain in Baxter State Park, which he refers to as Travelers plural. “It’s four peaks and you are up and down” the whole time and remote. “Every time I do the Travelers, I don’t think I have seen more than two parties.”

HOW BIG THE WORLD: Bossie’s next gig in Augusta was with Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, where he served as executive director until last summer. What he had in mind for the next job was something that would take him outdoors. “I wanted to get out into the wilderness, for that sense of serenity and peace and exploration, and that sense of how big the world is. Our human problems sometimes feel a lot different when you are in nature.” The outdoors has brought him solace in tough times; Bossie lost his brother Ryan to a heroin overdose in 2015, after years of struggling to help his younger brother conquer his addiction. The day we spoke was the anniversary of Ryan’s death. “It is fresh on all of my family members’ minds.”

MY OLD BACKYARD: While he was working for the citizens group, he had met Lucas St. Clair, who was leading the charge to turn 87,000 acres his family owned in the northern woods near Baxter into a national park or monument. “We would get together and talk about the trips we would go on, and I was very interested in what he was doing in my old backyard.” Bossie’s first canoe trip was with his future husband, on the East Branch of the Penobscot, a centerpiece of the new monument. That was around 2012, and since then, Bossie has fully embraced paddling, in large part because realized how much easier it is to cook well on a canoe trip than when carrying every ingredient on one’s back. In the early summer, Bossie put in an application to be a consultant for the new monument and in the fall he was offered the interim executive director job with the monument’s friends group. “It is an amazing opportunity. I wake up in the morning and pinch myself.” His appointment became official last month.


HARD AT WORK: What is his role? He’s building a philanthropic base to get the monument off the ground. “This is the infancy. So everything is needed.” The mission of the nonprofit includes supporting the Monument and defending “it against threats.” Then there is the map making: the friends group has banded together to create a map for the loop road and supporting materials. The group has also taken over ownership of a property originally donated to the National Park Foundation by a couple, Steve and Vicki Richardson, who own the local hardware store. The house will be used for the National Park Service’s administrative headquarters, but Bossie will also be able to stay there when he’s commuting from Portland. “I have a home, so to speak.”

FISH AND FORAGE: When he’s not working on the monument, he’ll be fishing and foraging. Despite that youth accompanying his dad hunting, he’s far more interested in casting from a canoe. “I am a fisherman although self admittedly, I am not that good at it.” He also loves to forage. Two cups of wild raspberries or blueberries, and he’ll be firing up the Dutch oven for a campside cake. “Food tastes better after a day of hard work.”

RIGHT FIT: Aside from his love of the outdoors, Bossie feels a strong connection with the area around Katahdin Woods & Waters because it reminds him so much of home in Caribou. And not just the woods. He was 11 when Loring Air Force Base closed in 1994 and well remembers the loss of jobs, and population, in nearby Limestone and its impact on Caribou. As the economy of towns near to Katahdin Woods & Waters attempt to bounce back from paper mill closures, Bossie relates to locals’ struggles. “These communities are a lot like Caribou. Even some of the potlucks have the same dishes.”

WATERGATE SALAD FOR ALL: Like what? Well, the other day in Patten, Bossie had some Watergate salad. What’s in that? Something scandalous? “Cool Whip, pistachio pudding mix, marshmallows, nuts and pineapple.” But salads aside, “The more common thing I see is that these are people that want their community to do well,” from opportunity for their youths to concern about their own futures as they age. The monument can be part of the solution, Bossie says. “The hallmark of all my work is the idea of people finding their own power and collectively using their power as a community. This is just an incredible opportunity to do this.” And there is a side benefit: “My dad is super psyched that I’m only an hour away.”

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