Brunswick Climate Action Task Force Seeks Volunteers

The town of Brunswick is actively seeking volunteers for a Climate Action Task Force, helping the Town develop a Climate Action Plan (CAP)! Comprised of residents, community stakeholders, and industry leaders, this group will convene for one year to oversee the development of the CAP, a plan that will utilize information on town-wide greenhouse gas emissions and vulnerability to climate change to chart a meaningful, action-oriented strategy in Brunswick’s fight against climate change.

The Task Force will be composed of a diverse group of community stakeholders and industry leaders, with representation consisting of at least one member from each of the following sectors:

  • Sustainability & Adaptation | Waste Reduction & Management, Recycling & Composting Climate & Environmental Sciences
  • Transportation | Transportation (pedestrian, bike, motor, etc.), Carbon Footprint, Emissions, and Pollution
  • Business | Economic Development, Business & Finance
  • Planning & Development | Housing, Construction & Building Operations, Sustainable Infrastructure, Community Development & Town Planning
  • Energy | Electricity, Renewable Energy
  • Food Systems | Agriculture & Aquaculture
  • Natural Resources | Marine Resources, Rivers & Coastal Waters
  • Land Use & Conservation | Land Conservation, Environmental Health and Diversity

Curious to learn more? Check out the Climate Action Task Force Chargeand the Town website for more information.

The deadline to apply for a seat on the Task Force is April 10th, 2023 by 4:30pm.

Applications may be filled out online as well as in person in the Town Clerk’s Office. Please direct all related questions to either:

Ashley Charleson, Brunswick’s Environmental Planner | 207-725-6659 |

James Ecker, Chair of Brunswick’s Recycling and Sustainability Committee | 207-417-5216 |

Winter Wildlife Wonders

Winter is a great time to get out on conserved lands and trails, and our local wildlife couldn’t agree more! BTLT staff recently captured a resident red fox at Androscoggin Woods on a game camera, who is just one of the many creatures that calls this property home.

Red fox don’t hibernate during the winter, which is why it is common to see fox on game cameras such as ours or while they are out hunting. As omnivores, fox may enjoy grasses, berries, and insects in their diet during the warmer months, but thanks to their excellent sense of smell and hearing, red fox are adept wintertime hunters and can hear a mouse squeak from 100 feet away underneath the snow. Red fox are well known for pouncing head first into snow during the wintertime while hunting for small mammals who live between the surface of the ground and the bottom of the snowpack, also known as the subnivean zone. There beneath the snow’s surface are mice, voles, and shrews who build vast networks of tunnels where they can access food found along the ground and enjoy protection from predators and freezing wintertime temperatures. With 6-8 inches of snow, the tunnels of these small mammals remain at around 32 degrees regardless of the outside temperatures. Fox, however, are particularly adept at listening for the inhabitants of the subnivean zone and infiltrating their winter lair.

Example of red fox track patterns in the snow, courtesy of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Not only are foxes busy hunting during the winter, but they also mate between December and February (a period of time marked by what is commonly referred to as a fox “screaming”). Mated foxes raise cubs together in their burrows until they are old enough to go out on their own when they are around 10 months old. In the wild, fox typically only live three years due to predation, disease, and other factors.

Even if you don’t cross paths with a fox, winter is a great time to explore local trails and look for animal tracks in the snow. You’re likely to see signs of deer, squirrels, and other small mammals who are all active during the wintertime, and you might see some fox tracks as well!

(Ignore the dates/times on the game cam photos, something is off with our game camera time settings!)

Recolor the Outdoors with Alex Bailey

Did you know that according to recent National Park Service data, roughly 77% of visitors to national parks are white?

In honor of Black History Month, we’re highlighting this moving TEDx by Alex Bailey, founder of Black Outside, Inc.

Despite the rapidly changing demographics of the United States, the outdoors remains a non-diverse space. In his TED talk, Alex discusses the numerous benefits to spending time in nature, yet a lack of engagement for many communities of color today, particularly in the Black/African-American community, due to safety, access, relevancy, and representation. Although participation in outdoor activities remains predominantly white, many communities of color have centuries of history in nature, both tragic and triumphant. As painful as these histories have sometimes been, a deeper understanding of these dual truths could be the key to ensuring that the future of the outdoors is not only relevant but representative of the cultural and ethnic diversity of the United States.

Looking to learn more?

Did you know Maine has 8 Species of Bats?

by Steve Pelletier, semi-retired Wildlife Biologist and Maine Forester, Topsham resident

It’s the last day of Bat Week! Check out how you can take action, have some fun with the kiddos, and read below to learn more about bats in Maine. Scroll to the bottom to check out a video from Maine Fish & Wildlife too!

Bats – the flitting, shadowy creatures of night skies around the world – have long been associated with nocturnal, unworldly beings and agents of disease, with a sole intent to create terror, tangle hair, and suck blood. Yet when simply left alone, bats are fascinating creatures, harmless and highly beneficial, essential to the health of global ecosystems and the balance of nature by providing vital ecological services in the forms of insect pest consumption, plant pollination, and seed dispersal.

Bats are the only mammal capable of true flight, representing the second largest order of mammal – after rodents – with more than 1,400 species dispersed across tropical and temperate habitats and six continents, absent only from the polar regions and a few isolated islands. Present-day bats have evolved over more than 50 million years and listed in the Order Chiroptera – a Greek name inferring “hand wing” due to the evolutionary modifications of their elongated digits, or fingers. Like our own hand, a bat’s wing is highly manipulative and versatile, allowing it to capture small, flying prey on the wing. Another particularly unique attribute of bats is their use of echolocation to navigate and to locate food and water. Their calls vary by species in duration and structure and reveal much about the ecology and foraging strategy of each species.

Bats are divided into two major groups, with one group, Megachiroptera, primarily feeding on fruit, nectar or pollen. The second group, Microchiroptera, are more familiar to us here in Maine and insectivorous, with some specialized to eat more carnivorous diets, feeding on rodents, other bats, reptiles, birds, amphibians, and even fish… truth be told, only three of the 1,400+ worldwide species are vampire bats that drink blood.

Bats are also recognized for having one of the slowest reproductive rates for animals their size. Most bats in northeastern North America have only one pup a year, and many females do not breed until their second year. While this low reproductive rate is somewhat offset by a long life-span, often over 20 years, bats populations currently face a serious worldwide decline. Some challenges they face are endemic to their order, such as a slow gestation period and diseases like White-nose Syndrome. The primary cause of their decline however, remains directly tied to human activity and involves the ongoing destruction of natural habitats, accelerated climate change, invasive species, and in many regions, stresses such as hunting and persecution for sport and meat. They also suffer from a long-standing proliferation of harmful myths. Without concerted international action, their populations will continue to fall, driving many species to extinction.

White-nose Syndrome (WNS) is a devastating fungal disease, responsible for the death of millions of bats in North America since first discovered in a single cave in New York in 2006. It has since spread across the continent, having been confirmed in 38 states and eight Canadian provinces, with evidence the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, present in five additional states. Named for the telltale white fuzzy growth on the nose, ears, and wings of infected bats, WNS repeatedly rouses bats from hibernation, causing them to consume their winter fat stores — which often results in starvation before spring. Numerous hibernacula have been devastated with 90 to 100 percent mortality rates. To date, 12 North American bat species have been confirmed with WNS, including two federally endangered species, the Gray bat and Indiana bat. Three species in particular – Northern long-eared, Little brown, and Tri-colored bats – have been most profoundly affected. The Northern long-eared bat was listed as federally threatened due to the rapid decline of this species from WNS. It continues to cause massive population declines for multiple hibernating bat species – resulting in one of the most significant losses to wildlife in the past century.

Maine has eight species of bats. Five of those – Big brown bat, Little brown bat, Northern long-eared bat, Eastern small-footed bat, and Tri-colored bathibernate during Maine’s winter months. The remaining three species – Eastern red bat, Silver-haired bat, and Hoary bat – are often referred to as tree bats and migrate south for the winter. WNS was first observed in 2010. Since then, populations of all five hibernating species in Maine have been profoundly affected by WNS.

Our own research on the seasonal presence of bats in Maine began in 2004 and involved use of specialized acoustic recording equipment that enabled remote, site-specific, and time-stamped collection of individual bat echolocations on a 24/7 basis. A subsequent analysis of sonograms from the echolocation recordings was then used to identify each call by species. The collection of these data was accomplished by deploying battery operated acoustic detectors in targeted, often remote, habitats across much of the northeast, as well as coastal offshore locations, with each detector unit continuously recording calls over long-term seasonal periods. The date and time of each individual recording was included with the call data, enabling a subsequent analysis that – when viewed in context with multiples of other units deployed in a wide variety of habitats – began to provide a telling tale of the activities of our nocturnal neighbors. Even more telling and powerful was the same analysis and data comparisons when compared with recorded weather variables such as temperature, wind speed/ direction collected at the time of each call. The accumulation of these data ultimately resulted in an assemblage of tens of thousands of individual data points over the course of a single year, enabling a better understanding of activity trends of individual species over the course of a single night, season, or even year.

The recent influence of WNS on Maine bat populations has been sobering. An analysis of species occurrence from 2004 to the present clearly depicts a dramatic population decline of Maine’s non-hibernating species. Where formerly the Little brown bat was the most common bat species across the northeast landscape, it is now virtually absent. At the same time, our data reveal that the formerly common – but by no means dominant – Big brown bat is now a dominant species, despite the fact each occupies a different ecological niche. Whether such a fundamental shift in species composition has been due to the Big brown’s ability to expand into a habitat previously occupied by Little brown bats, or whether it’s because of a loss or shifting of insect prey due to climate change or increased pesticides, remains unknown. As importantly, the ecological effects of such a consequential shift and the almost total loss of one of the most common residents of the nocturnal landscape, has not yet even begun to be understood.

A better understanding and respect of the habits and resource needs of our night time friends will go a long way towards helping to turn around the ongoing population declines. More information regarding the habits and habitats of Maine’s bats, as well as those of species around the world, and how we might best conserve these species, can be found at

You can also check out this great video from Maine Fish & Wildlife:

Photo: Tricolored Bat, J. Scott Altenbach (

Thank You Jane!

by Julia St.Clair, BTLT Agricultural Programs Coordinator

Jane with a group of Common Good Garden Volunteers

As the Tom Settlemire Community Garden (TSCG) is wrapping up the 2022 growing season, we would like to take this opportunity to give a huge shout out to our summer Environmental Studies Fellow from Bowdoin College, Jane Olsen!

Jane dug in right away, coming to the Garden with little gardening experience, but quickly learning while working alongside other gardeners in the TSCG community. Jane even had the chance to tend her own plot at TSCG, successfully growing leeks, carrots, herbs, and a seemingly endless bounty of tomatoes! Jane brought her passion for building community and love for the outdoors to TSCG.

Jane working on Orchard research with Glenn Wildes

Over the summer, Jane worked alongside volunteers in the Common Good Garden, supporting and leading weekly workdays. She also joined the volunteer team supporting the New Mainers garden at TSCG, adding an extra set of hands to support this ambitious project. Additionally, Jane spent the summer researching and chatting with local experts about orchard care, drafting up an orchard care and maintenance plan for the TSCG orchard and learning more about the history of how these blueberry bushes, peach trees, and apple trees came to grow at TSCG.

As an avid writer, Jane tackled a personal project while working at TSCG: interviewing and profiling a handful of TSCG plot holders from new to longtime gardeners. Her articles tell the stories of garden community members and offer the advice they shared for interested gardeners. These stories put faces to some of the many plots in the garden, reminding us just how many hands go into growing TSCG. In these articles Jane also highlights many of the different growing styles and gardening knowledge backgrounds that TSCG gardeners bring to the space. You can check out her articles on the BTLT blog.

Jane with MCHPP Fellow Liliana and BTLT intern Cora

Collaborating with a Bowdoin Fellow from Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program, Liliana, and BTLT intern Cora, Jane worked to plan and host a successful volunteer appreciation event at the Garden. The event included live music, treats from Wild Oats and Mere Point Oyster Co, and a raffle for volunteers. Jane also returned this fall to volunteer in the Common Good Garden and helped host the Garden’s annual-ish ‘Plot Luck’ event with members from across the garden community.

We are so grateful to have had Jane join us this past summer and we hope that she will continue to expand her gardening knowledge. We wish her the best of luck with her continued studies at Bowdoin and hope that she will come back to visit us at TSCG often!

Ways to Honor Indigenous People this Season

Indigenous People’s Day is October 10th! Learn about how Indigenous People’s Day came to be in Maine via Maine State Muesumand News Center Maine. Keep reading to learn about ways to engage with this important day both in-person and remote in the coming weeks.

Have you heard of the Pejepscot Portage Mapping Group? It’s a group of various professors, artists, activists, and others in Brunswick focused on indigenous representation in this area, past as well as present. This group is part of the Midcoast Indigenous Awareness Group (MIAG), a group of midcoast Maine residents working to raise awareness in ourselves and others about local and regional Indigenous cultures, histories, and current challenges through education and programming. They will be offering two live programs at Curtis Memorial Library as part of the Indigenous People’s Day holiday season:

  • “Many Voices: Who Gets to Tell the Story? How does our community understand itself in terms of its Indigenous past and present?”
    • Facilitated panel discussion, September 28th at 6:00pm, Curtis Memorial Library
    • Panelists: Heather Augustine, Mihku Paul, James Francis, Joe Hall, and Steve Weems, moderated by Rev. Dr. H Roy Partridge Jr.
    • Click here to learn more about this event
  • “A Path to Community – Seeking to learn more about the place we now call Brunswick”

A great way to continue learning about and supporting Indigenous communities is to attend educational events and support Wabanaki REACH! They’re hosting a film screening and panel discussion next month that you may want to check out: “Voices from the Barrens, Native People, Blueberries and Sovereignty, documents the wild blueberry harvest of the Wabanaki Indigenous People from the USA and Canada as the tribes are challenged to balance blueberry hand raking traditions with the economics of the world market.” Learn more here.

Another way to engage with Indigenous People’s Day, specifically in relation to the outdoors, is to check out the webinar linked below: Indigenous Voices in the Outdoors, co-hosted by Rethink Outside™ and First Nations Development Institute.

BTLT understands that the conservation movement has a history fraught with exclusionary practices. We know that the history of the land we manage and an array of privileges that have supported our organization are rooted in the marginalization and disenfranchisement of many people. We recognize that the burdens of environmental damage, climate change, and lack of access to land-based resources are disproportionately placed on communities of color, Indigenous communities, people with physical and mental disabilities, LGBTQ+ individuals, and low-income communities because of biases and other disparities. We acknowledge our responsibility to understand that past and to commit to making the future different.To read more about BTLT’s commitment to a more just and equitable future, please click here.

Shimmying Shad and Splashing Sturgeon: Event Recap & Recording

Earlier this month, Cathance River Education Alliance and Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust hosted presentation for John Lichter and Renske Kerkhofs to discuss the recovery efforts on the rivers of Merrymeeting Bay. The event was well attended and the recording can be viewed here. Renske shares:

“Though it is always a good time to talk about shad, with the upcoming relicensing of the Brunswick-Topsham hydroelectric dam in 2029, now is a better time than ever! This talk was a great way to raise awareness about the inefficacy of the Brunswick-Topsham fish ladder and the negative impact this has on American shad populations. Many of you attended and had great questions.”

She continued by sharing that the main takeaway is that research using sonar technology has shown that the fish ladder at the Brunswick-Topsham hydroelectric dam is not adequate in allowing shad to pass and go to their upstream spawning grounds. With the relicensing of the dam in 2029, we have an opportunity to make changes.

“Of course, there is much more to do to help our river ecosystems than just the Brunswick-Topsham dam. If you are interested in shad or overall river ecosystem health, try to learn more about dams in your area and what your personal observations while walking, kayaking, or boating might indicate about river health!” Renske says.

In Spring of 2023 join CREA, BTLT and Charlie Spies for part two of this series for a presentation on the dam relicensing process, and learn about how you can get involved in dam relicensing in our area.