Jonah Raether and Joe Hazelton stood out to Kennebec Land Trust Executive Director Theresa Kerchner for their desire to mitigate climate change. 

“They are inspiring,” she said. “It is hopefully a sign that the next generation is focusing on the future.”

As interns building and maintaining trails, directing volunteer stewards and writing grant applications, Raether kept a keen eye on the connection between human health and the environment, while Hazelton helped community members discover good forest management. 

They will present their research projects during KLT’s annual meeting this weekend in Wayne. 

Raether is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is a graduate student at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, studying health science and community health.

His research project studied the relation between environmental connection and its impact on human health. 

“I knew that I did not just want to work on building trails,” said Raether. “I wanted to get to know the people living here — I came in with that goal.” 

Through his research project, he created a booklet of interviews sharing the stories of local connections to nature which will be shared both at the meeting and online. 

He said its a narrative of what a “community connected to the outdoors looks like.”

One story that touched him was told by Pete and Marjorie Lovejoy of Wayne. Their family had been visiting a patch of showy lady slippers, an endangered orchid. 

“Even though it’s a small sample size,” he said, “people in Maine (are passionate) about conservation and climate change mitigation. 

“And being outside is really important to folks,” Raether said.

The booklet, titled, “Natural Assets and Resilient Communities — People and the Land: A Collection of Essays,” will be shared at the meeting and online. 

Hazelton is from Arlington, Massachusetts, and will soon graduate from the University of Michigan’s environmental science program. 

His research project looked at forest management of Surry Hill Community Forest, KLT’s newest property in Fayette, which will be managed to mitigate climate change by carbon sequestration, the process by which trees and other plants pull oxygen out of the air through photosynthesis and stored as carbon.

“You would think that by cutting down trees, you are releasing carbon and promoting climate change,” Hazelton said. “The opposite is true if you harvest timber correctly.”

He created a brochure and designed a web page that explains how timber management is helpful with limiting carbon emissions and pulling carbon dioxide out of the air.  

Hazelton’s brochure, “Keeping Forests as Forests: A Natural Solution to climate change,” explains the need for carbon sequestration, the process by which trees and other plants pull oxygen out of the air through photosynthesis and stored as carbon.

Hazelton said that the three points coming out of the forest management is to protect the soil, where half of the carbon in a forest is stored; promote native species, grow big trees and selectively harvest.

Hazelton said the collaboration with experts in science communications taught him to accept the scrutiny of editing and how to present information that would be understandable for a layperson.

“When I am working on a similar publication or a similar piece of analysis,” Hazelton said, “I will feel more comfortable reaching out to double check what I have done to improve the quality of my work.”

For Raether, he developed his interviewing skills in order to have in depth conversations about relationships with the natural world. It solidified his interest about the connection with human health and environmental health.

“Both projects will benefit KLT and the state as a whole,” said Kerchner. 

Raether and Hazelton started their nine-week internships on June 25. They worked 40-hour weeks, and were paid $1,000 each for the summer. 

Housing for the interns was provided at no cost at the Vaughan Woods and Historic Homestead in Hallowell in exchange for their assistance with its summer programming. 

The Winthrop-based trust’s annual meeting will be at 1 p.m. Sunday at Camp Androscoggin. 

Prior to the meeting will be the Tri-Sport Challenge at 9 a.m.; a hike in Perkins Woods, a trip to Norris Island, open swimming at 10:45 a.m.; and a potluck lunch. 

The meeting will include the presentation of the Howard Lake Lifetime Achievement Award and others.


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