The Winter Days of a Land Steward
by Dakota Ward

Though winter has been slow to start, as of writing this it seems like it might just be here. At the Land Trust, we’ve been both grateful for the lack of snow and wishing for more. Grateful, as it has made several of our outdoor projects easier to complete, but we are ready to ski, snowshoe and fatbike on the trails.

Despite the pandemic, and the changes brought to the world and to the Land Trust, many tasks still must happen. As the Land Steward, I’ve been working on quite a few of them.

Baseline documentation site visit in Topsham

As a conserved lands holder/owner, the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust is required to do yearly inspections and reports on both conservation easements (like the Cathance River Nature Preserve) and owned land (like Crystal Spring Farm). Over the course of last fall, Land Trust staff and volunteers visited every property (with COVID precautions in place) and took notes and photos of the conditions present. With winter here, and less pleasant weather necessitating inside work, I’ve been working to review and file those reports, working with a database a volunteer helped the Land Trust set up. This process allows the Land Trust to get an on-the-ground snapshot of the property conditions in addition to changes in human use patterns, wildlife, and vegetation year to year. This helps to inform our management practices and provide information to private landowners who have conserved their property.

Not every day has been blustery and cold, however. Another project this fall has been an exciting possible conservation project on the Cathance River. We’ve been creating baseline documentation, maps, photos, and more for this project. Margaret Wilson (BTLT Vice President), Margaret Gerber (BTLT Stewardship Manager), and I have made several visits to the property, looking for potential trails routes, documenting natural features and communities, and generally getting to know the land.

Annual monitoring visit to the Perry property

Of course, around these larger projects are the smaller, but still needed, tasks of maintaining and building trails, updating signage, and preparing for the next year. Over just the last month, we’ve blazed several new trails for construction in the spring, and cleared who knows how many blowdowns from the winter storms… all things that wouldn’t be possible without the help of the many BTLT volunteers that join us.

With that said, hopefully this snow will stick out around – get out and enjoy the trails and properties that the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust has to offer!

Dakota joined the Land Trust in July of 2020, having previously worked at the Greater Lovell Land Trust. He grew up on a small off-grid family farm in the White Mountains, where his love and respect for the outdoors was born. Dakota is an adjunct faculty in the Graphic Communications program at Central Maine Community College and enjoys hiking, mountain biking, and backcountry skiing in his spare time. He lives in New Gloucester with his partner.