Farewell to George Jutras

By Lydia Coburn, BTLT Communications Coordinator

BTLT Agricultural Programs Coordinator Julia St.Clair and George Jutras on a monitoring walk at Androscoggin Woods

Last spring, George Jutras was hired as BTLT’s Land Steward. He quickly became a valued and beloved part of the team, jumping into big projects like opening our newest public preserve, Androscoggin Woods, as well as building a 120-foot crushed stone pathway at Cathance River Nature Preserve. Though we are sad to see him leave, we are grateful to have gotten the chance to work with him this past year and are excited to see what his future holds! I sat down with George to ask him a few questions about his experience working at BTLT.

What’s your biggest take away from this experience? 

“This has been a career defining job for me. I’ve worked for the forest service, outdoor gear shops, education, etc. – this has helped me narrow down that I want to work more with land stewardship, acquisition, and conservation. 

My time with BTLT has been really helpful in establishing a personal vision for the future of land conservation in the US. I spent a lot of time in undergrad thinking about the federal government and large scale conservation projects. Working here has given me a new perspective and practical skills in private conservation and how this style of conservation can fit into the greater portfolio of nationwide conservation – Conservation 2.0, as we’ve been calling it. It’s about people and place, and the connection between the two – not just about abstract natural resources and wildlife. 

I also definitely learned what I value in a job, like rapport with co-workers, autonomy in my role, and a greater sense of community. When I first applied for the job, I thought it was just going to be doing a lot of independent field work type stuff. I didn’t think I’d be spending a lot of time meeting folks or strengthening relationships. But the community opened itself up to me in such an endearing and sincere way – I got to connect with so many community members, board members, and volunteers.”

Clearing up fallen trees on the Cathance via kayak

What was your favorite day during your time here? 

“A few come to mind, but the first day I did a property visit via kayak access was pretty cool. Chas, one of the seasonal land stewards last year, and I were doing a recon paddle up the Cathance River from Head of Tide Park to check for downed trees. It was towards the end of his season so we had become pretty close by that point. We brought saws and other equipment and cleared up the fallen debris. It was really fun and odd to do trail work from the water!”


What’s next for you? 

“I’ll be attending the Master of Environment graduate program at Colorado this fall. I’m looking forward to continuing my professional growth, and complicating my worldview in this industry. I want to continue to work to understand myself better and this work within different communities, expanding the scope of thinking in this field, particularly with access.

It was nice to work at this hyper-local level and have these community connections, and I feel curious about doing this work at a broader scale – I want to experiment with that for a bit.

Working with the BTLT community has been an immensely profound experience. It’s given me a strong sense of self confidence and stability. I feel solid enough to be able to take a step into the unknown, move to a new place, take on grad school, all of that. I know I would probably be feeling very differently if I had been working at, say, a bike shop this past year!

This job has helped narrow my focus but also opened the door to a lot more questions than answers. But I’m okay with that! I feel like I’m at a point in my life where I’m trying to seek more questions than answers. I have very few things holding me back, and I’m excited to see where these questions take me.” 

George, we thank you so much for all that you contributed to BTLT during your time here, and we wish you best of luck as you go forward! We know you’ll do great things in land conservation.

A Walk at Little River Preserve

By Lydia Coburn, BTLT Communications Coordinator

The sweetest little oasis just off a major road, Little River Preserve is one of my new favorite properties. This week, BTLT Land Steward George Jutras met me in the parking lot off the side of Lewiston Road in Topsham. At first glance you can see glimpses of the river through the trees and a bit of a trail. You hear the sound of cars rushing by on their way to and from Lisbon.

George and I chatted by the side of his truck as he got his fishing gear in order – a dry fly, his pole, and extra supplies in his Flow Fold fanny pack. He told me this was most likely his favorite BTLT property; he looked excited to be there.

As we walked along the trail, we chatted about invasive species, the various reasons people use the trail, and how/why the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife stock the river. George explained that about 500 brook trout and 300 brown trout were released into the Little River back in April. He suspected they’d all been fished out by now, but he wanted to try his luck anyway. As I watched him cast his line in the still water, I thought about what makes our “favorite places” our “favorite places.” In George’s opinion, it requires a repetition of positive experiences in the same space. Though, plenty of folks find themselves somewhere new for the first time and it instantly becomes one of their “favorite places.” Regardless of “favorite place” status, I asked him why we protect this relatively small parcel of land. George explained that the Little River is a Class B river – not quite as damaged as the Class C Androscoggin, but by protecting this property, and not letting it fall any lower than class B, we’re contributing to the conservation of other waterways in the area. 

As we continued further down the trail, the sounds of cars faded, and the pleasant sounds of the trickling river and chirping birds filled our ears. “It’s one of those properties where you can feel far away from civilization, but you’re not,” George said quietly. Sun shone through the tree canopy, lush green moss covered the rocks, a plethora of mushrooms sprinkled the forest floor, the river was serene. We looked up and saw a Great Blue Heron standing peacefully on a rock, also enjoying the quiet moment.

It goes without saying, I highly recommend a visit to the Little River Preserve. Open dawn to dusk, leashed dogs allowed. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, we did not catch any fish – perhaps next Spring!