I just wrapped-up a spectacular week along the Maine coast working with an exceptional group of young professionals from around the world.
The 4th annual Acadian Program in Regional Conservation and Stewardship was held at Schoodic Institute in Acadia National Park in July and August of 2014. The Acadian Program brings young professionals from around the world to learn about large landscape conservation using Downeast Maine as a living classroom and laboratory. The region, with its remarkable past and history of innovative conservation initiatives, provides an extraordinary setting for young professionals from the U.S. and abroad.
This year’s program of 17 participants included students from Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Belize, and Argentina. Two teams of young professionals came from Chile and Vietnam. Together, on the Maine coast, students learned about conservation challenges and successes, and honed skills in designing and implementing innovative conservation strategies using the vast array of public, private, non-profit and academic resources available.
The week-long program was conducted in three parts. We began with two days of instruction in the theory and practice of large landscape conservation, with speakers from Harvard, the University of Maine, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Maine Sea Grant, and others. Then, student teams from around the world led half-day discussions of a current conservation challenge regarding a large landscape initiative in their region. After their presentations, presenting teams worked with their new colleagues to brainstorm and then propose effective policy responses to their challenge.
The last three days of the course focused on the ecological, economic, and social restoration of the Penobscot River watershed following the historic removal/modification of several large dams – including the removal of the Veazie Dam last summer. Students learned about the Bay-to-Baxter Initiative – a new proposal to leverage the Penobscot’s natural amenities for much-needed economic growth (see http://bangordailynews.com/2014/07/11/opinion/contributors/bay-to-baxter-as-the-penobscot-river-changes-so-must-we/). Participants were then introduced to the award-winning Maine Futures Community Mapper – a stakeholder-driven online tool designed to help planners, businesses and residents make more informed land use decisions (see www.MaineLandUseFutures.org and FMF’s recent Fresh from the Woods article).
Students and course faculty spent a day touring the Lower Penobscot River watershed, learning about local agriculture, forestry, and conservation initiatives. Bangor planning officials briefed the group on the more than $200 million in downtown waterfront revitalization efforts, and the group ended its tour at the Veazie Salmon Club overlook watching the Penobscot River flow free through what was once the location of the Veazie dam. Students were also introduced to the challenges facing the region – from development threats, mercury contamination from Orrington’s shuttered Holtrachem plant, new gravel mining operations in shoreland zones, and the loss of forests to non-forest uses.
Since 2011, the Acadian Program has hosted more than 60 students from 15 countries and five continents. Program partners include the University of Maine, the Quebec-Labrador Foundation, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Harvard University, and the Schoodic Institute located in Acadia National Park. For more information and to learn more about this year’s interns, see http://acadianinternship.wordpress.com/.
Robert J. Lilieholm, E.L. Giddings Professor of Forest Policy, University of Maine, Orono