Behind the Scenes with Your Stewardship Team

BTLT staff monitoring an easement property

As you walk our trails, bike past a BTLT property, or enjoy watching critters occupying our landscapes, you may not think about the ongoing effort that goes into managing these lands. During an outing on one of our properties you might notice a steward, dressed in orange with a BTLT cap on, preparing their GPS in the parking area or placing a canoe in the water for a day out monitoring. Each monitoring visit starts a little differently from spraying down your pant legs with bug spray before you navigate through a field of tall ferns to loading up your kayak with snacks for a full day paddle up the Cathance River. For a monitor, the goal is always the same: connect with the land and understand the role that each unique property plays in the area that surrounds it. As a monitor, the most valuable tool in your belt is your ability to observe the landscape as you move through it. Every detail observed during a visit creates a story about the land that tells us the health of our forests, the wildlife that call them home, and the people that visit them.

The Land Trust engages the community we serve in many ways, from hosting the Farmers’ Market every Saturday, providing Community Garden plots, making nature learning fun for kids at CREA Camp and school programs, and welcoming folks at events. But at the core of these programs is the land on which they take place.  

Little River Preserve

With all this land comes an immense amount of work that occurs behind the scenes, ensuring the properties remain wonderful places to visit. In the Brunswick-Topsham area, BTLT has the privilege of offering 12 trail systems for public use, but those properties make up a small portion of the additional lands we manage for ecological purposes, plant and wildlife habitat, protection of agricultural land, and cherished viewsheds. 

To date, BTLT manages 68 properties across Brunswick, Topsham, and Bowdoin – that’s 3,220 acres of land that we’re responsible for overseeing! Land trusts conserve land in two ways: by owning land outright (referred to as fee properties), and by holding easements, where the landowner of privately owned property enters a permanently binding legal agreement that protects and prioritizes specific conservation values of their land. To learn more and how and why BTLT conserves land, click here 

With easements and land ownership comes a lot of responsibility. Every year, our stewardship staff and volunteer teams monitor all 68 properties. This time-consuming but vital process is critical to:  

  • Maintain our status as a nationally accredited land trust; 
  • Maintain the safety of our public trail systems; 
  • Maintain strong working relationships with landowners and neighbors;  
  • Understand the changing landscape in the context of climate, hydrologic changes, invasive species, public use, and more; 
  • Keep an eye on what’s happening (good and bad) on BTLT property.  

Woodward Cove

The goal of property monitoring is to ensure that long-term conservation management plans are being met on each property. Stewardship staff and volunteers visit properties annually to observe their current condition, usage, and long-term trends. Following the visit, they generate a report that documents their observations and assesses them in the context of the property management plan or easement.  

The amount of time it takes to monitor each property depends on its size, property type, management plan priorities, and what we find while navigating the property. Cumulatively, the task of monitoring all our properties demands hundreds of staff hours annually and it grows with every new acquisition. As our stewardship responsibilities and workload increase, it is vital that we find new ways to make this process as efficient as possible, so we have time for other key stewardship projects, including trail work, invasive species management, and volunteer engagement. 

New and exciting technologies are constantly being developed that can alleviate the growing time commitment associated with property monitoring. This year, BTLT began using a new landscape conservation software that has immense potential to streamline the process of generating monitoring reports. Volunteers entered baseline data on all our properties, making it possible for reports to easily show the track traveled by the monitor, photo points, and much more. We are always looking for ways to serve our community and fulfill our mission more efficiently. Using programs like this will enable staff to spend more time on many of the other important tasks associated with ensuring the conservation land you cherish remains healthy and available for use by the community! 

Screen shot from the new landscape conservation software