Archive for category: Blog

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Earns National Recognition

At a time of political change, one thing is clear and consistent: Americans strongly support saving the open spaces they love. Since 1985, Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust has been doing just that for the people of Brunswick, Topsham, and Bowdoin.  In 2012, the Land Trust was one of the first in the state to apply for and be awarded national Land Trust Accreditation and now, five years later, we are proud to announce that we have successfully renewed our accreditation – proving once again that, as part of a network of 398 accredited land trusts across the nation, we are committed to professional excellence and to maintaining the public’s trust in our conservation work.

 

“Re-accreditation is an affirmation of how we have matured as an effective and responsible land trust that can be trusted in the communities we serve,” said Brad Babson, BTLT Board President. Emily Swan, Secretary of the Board, noted that “achieving accreditation is a lot of hard work for any land trust, but it means so much more than just being able to slap the Land Trust Accreditation Commission seal on our website and publications. All the policies and systems we put in place in order to achieve accreditation have made the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust a stronger, more sustainable organization, and have enormously increased our capacity to serve our local communities.”

 

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust provided extensive documentation and underwent a comprehensive review as part of its accreditation renewal process. The Land Trust Accreditation Commission awarded the renewed accreditation, signifying its confidence that BTLT properties will be conserved forever.

 

Accredited land trusts must renew every five years, confirming their compliance with national quality standards and providing continued assurance to donors and landowners of their commitment to forever steward their land and easements. Almost 20 million acres of farms, forests and natural areas vital to healthy communities are now permanently conserved by an accredited land trust. BTLT has conserved over 2,700 acres to date.

 

“It is exciting to recognize the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust with this distinction,” said Tammara Van Ryn, executive director of the Commission. “Accredited land trusts are united behind strong ethical standards ensuring the places people love will be conserved forever. Accreditation recognizes the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust has demonstrated sound finances, ethical conduct, responsible governance, and lasting stewardship.”

 

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust is one of 1,363 land trusts across the United States according to the most recent National Land Trust Census, released in December 2016 by the Land Trust Alliance. This comprehensive report highlights the significant achievements made by the nation’s 398 accredited land trusts:

  • Accredited land trusts have steadily grown and now steward almost 80% of conservation lands and easements held by all land trusts.
  • Accredited land trusts protected five times more land from 2010 to 2015 than land trusts that were not accredited.
  • Furthermore, accreditation has increased the public’s trust in land conservation, which has helped win support for federal, state and local conservation funding measures.

 

A complete list of accredited land trusts and more information about the process and benefits are detailed at www.landtrustaccreditation.org.

BTLT in the News, “Maine Voices: Maine Land Trust Network helps support ‘the way life should be'”

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust is featured in the Portland Press Herald today! Angela Twitchell, BTLT Executive Director, and Nick Ullo, Boothbay Region Land Trust Executive Director, wrote this informative article on the many benefits of Land Trusts in Maine.

“The Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee has been studying Maine land trusts since October. As leaders of the Maine Land Trust Network, we welcome the study and the chance to highlight the many ways we make Maine “the way life should be.”

Last summer, the Maine Land Trust Network surveyed our members and published the findings in a report titled “Land Trusts Work for Maine.” This report highlights the most important benefits that land trusts contribute to our local communities and to the state. For example, hikers can explore more than 1,250 miles of trails that wind through land trust properties in every corner of Maine. These range from family-friendly nature paths in communities like Freeport, to more challenging routes ending atop bald summits in rural corners of Oxford County, and everything in between. Motorized recreational enthusiasts also benefit from Maine’s statewide collection of land trust conserved lands, which are home to over 345 miles of ATV trails and 570 miles of snowmobile trails.”

To read more of the article, click the link below.

Maine Voices: Maine Land Trust Network helps support ‘the way life should be’

Farewell to Caroline Eliot

Caroline Eliot

There are fond farewells and sad goodbyes in life, and the Land Trust’s recent parting with Caroline Eliot was surely both. At the end of 2017, after seven years of service to BTLT, Caroline Eliot moved on to pursue other challenges.

To understand Caroline’s influence is to understand how far BTLT has come as an organization since she was hired. Before her, the only staff we had was Angela Twitchell, our Executive Director. Angela has a knack for finding the right people for BTLT and it was never more apparent than when she found Caroline Elliot seven years ago to provide “a little help” as we were preparing for our initial Land Trust Alliance accreditation.

Caroline had all the right academic credentials and interests to work in a conservation organization, but we did not know then of her strong organization skills and her tireless work ethic to assure that what needed to get done DOES get done. Well, we all know that now.

Through the extensive Accreditation application and requirements, Caroline kept the Board aware of the priorities and milestones that needed to be reached, and that leadership was always coupled with her invaluable advice. When there might be some confusion on the best course forward, or how to get something completed it was usually Caroline who would say “let me do some research,” or “I can do that,” and, sure enough, she did. She readily made connections with the greater land trust community to get and give credible advice on the issues we dealt with, many for the first time. She also worked to clean up our records/filing/systems/procedures.

Her hard work and invaluable direction eventually made us realize that what we were accomplishing was exactly what the accreditation process was supposed to do for a land trust – building a more sustainable, community-focused organization. Fortunately, we had Caroline in that key position.

Caroline on the trail with Gary Fogg

With the valuable policies and procedures associated with accreditation in place, only then did Caroline turn her attention to stewardship, leaving Angela to concentrate on funding and long-term strategy. In so doing, Caroline became not only indispensable to Angela but also a character well known to the trail crew.

“She would come to the woods from time to time to observe what we were doing and offer suggestions for improvement,” says Gary Fogg, our long-time trail crew leader. “Her principal concern was to do things faster and get more projects done with the time and materials available. In response, I would explain that trail work was a sacred ritual that could not be rushed and that attention to details was important. Caroline was very patient in dealing with explanations of this kind and so I always thought we made a great team in spite of our differences.”

Caroline at the Clay Brook Bridge grand opening.

Caroline was not simply an observer on the Land Trust’s properties. She put in many hours running a chainsaw, leading youth in hauling stone, developing trail routes and signage, and most any task that was needed to keep our properties, safe, ecologically healthy, and inviting to the community. This hands-on approach extended to whatever needed to be done at the Farmer’s Market; Community Garden; Labyrinth; and the list goes on. When she felt the need to recognize some of her volunteers she had them out to her house for a field trip, a celebration, and lots of home-baked cookies.

Caroline was in her element in the field building infrastructure and recruiting volunteers, but also doing the necessary record keeping and the tough job of negotiation, both calmly and professionally explaining easement requirements to landowners.

Caroline’s contributions to the Land Trust, tangible and intangible, are far too great to ever innumerate. A critical eye, creative problem solving, ceaseless willingness to help where needed, impeccable research skills, encouraging mentor, unparalleled record keeping, inspiring friend and mother, spot-on editing, unequaled desserts, remembering every staff birthday, and crucial grounding for a staff and Board that aspires for the stars. These are just a very few of the much-loved assets Caroline brought to our organization that will be sorely missed.

Caroline giving direction to youth volunteers.

BTLT has made many significant progressive moves in the past years and Caroline has played an imperative role of most of them. She cannot be replaced; she will be missed; and we all wish her well in her ongoing work (and play) – whatever she decides to do next. She has trained us well and imparted her wisdom and skills and we, as an organization, will do even better because of her contributions.

 

Contributed by Jeff Nelson & Gary Fogg

Mindfulness in the Woods

By Susan Olcott

I loved the calm that followed the October wind storm – no sounds of machines or even music playing in our dark house, save for the whooshing of falling leaves – and only the flickers of candles to see by once the sun had set. I wanted more of the simplicity that being without electricity had provided. Our girls also felt a bit shortchanged when the power came back, bringing an end to unexpected family time spent playing board games by the fire and evenings carrying lanterns up to bed. It encouraged our family to focus on each other – my husband and I couldn’t work without the internet and many of our daily routines like bathing ourselves and washing clothes and dishes were suspended without hot water and the use of our electric machines. We were all truly present in the moment and it got me thinking of ways to replicate this in our daily lives.

Mindfulness is becoming a common term in more circles than just yoga studios. In school, even in first grade, our girls practice breathing techniques to calm down and focus their brains on the learning that they need to do. And, in a recent meeting of a nature playgroup that we are a part of, one of the mothers led a lesson on mindfulness in nature. Each child walked along a short stretch of trail by him or herself in silence. And us parents had a chance to stand quietly in the woods along the trail by ourselves as well. Rain dripped off of leaves, birds chirped, clouds moved – there was much to observe. Then we shared that one of the reasons we adults love to be outside is nature’s ability to settle our often-busy minds. In addition, the motion of walking keeps our bodies busy so that our minds can become calm. This is particularly true of children who can often focus better while in motion!

Lili and Phoebe in the Labyrinth

This led me back to the labyrinth. I had walked the labyrinth with my girls before – at events like its opening ceremony and the lantern-lit solstice walk, and several times in between. But, I wanted to do it again since they had been working on the practice of mindfulness. This time, as before, they silently walked back and forth. They looked carefully for the stones, many of which were covered in wet leaves. But, when they reached the center, they each picked a different bench and sat quietly. They continued to be silent even after I reached the center, not seeming overeager to see what might happen next and what I might have brought in my bag (which often contains goodies). After a few moments, I motioned them over to sit on either side of me and I was the first to break the silence – amazing! We shared some cider while we also shared the thoughts we had while walking. Lili daydreamed of tiny fairies that could bring back to life those we have lost in our lives; and Phoebe thought of how grateful she was to have food and a warm house to live in – serious stuff for six year olds! Phoebe reminded me that mindfulness included looking outward as well as inward, so we spent a few moments looking and listening. Lili noticed that the trees that had fallen made the woods look more interesting and Phoebe said the circle of trees around us reminded her of the circle of life (cue “The Lion King”).

A drawing of the Labyrinth and mindfulness in the woods.

On our way back out, I asked them to focus on what the labyrinth looks like – its shape and patterns, and told them that they would have to draw it when we got home. I told them they could draw what they thought of as the labyrinth but that it didn’t have to look like exactly like it. What they drew was full of whimsy and imagination both from their inside thoughts and from their natural observations.

This all took place in less than an hour but seemed to fuel us for the rest of the day as if we had smoothed out the squiggles in our brains by tracing them with our feet – well worth the time and I hope to do it again soon. And this year, more than ever, I look forward to the December solstice walk to trace the labyrinth’s patterns by the light of lanterns in celebration of the darkness.