Merger creates new Down East conservancy

Posted July 16, 2009, at 9:16 p.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — Two Down East conservancy groups that have been operating for decades as separate entities with nearly identical goals are planning to merge.

Great Auk Land Trust and Quoddy Regional Land Trust will become Downeast Coastal Conservancy once their members vote on the merger in August.

Both groups were grass-roots efforts that began when their charter members were discussing issues while sitting around kitchen tables, Tom Boutureira, executive director of Great Auk Land Trust, said this week. They now have a combined 42 years of experience in saving Down East resources.

Boutureira will become the director of the new conservancy.

“It is a challenge and it’s really exciting,” Boutureira said.

He said the merger, which mirrors a national trend among small land trusts, will allow for greater efficiency and a new focus on the entire Down East watershed. Boutureira said administrative redundancy can be eliminated with the merger and allow the staff more time to specialize in land protection.

The Downeast Coastal Conservancy mission will be the conservation of the natural habitats and resources of the watershed and communities of coastal Washington County, and the main office will be located in Machias. Quoddy Regional Land Trust’s Whiting office will become a field office.

Previously, Great Auk Land Trust focused on the region from Steuben to Beals to Jonesboro in southwestern Washington County, while Quoddy Regional Land Trust emphasized the area from Machias to Lubec to Calais.

The merger will meld Quoddy Regional Land Trust’s 45 protected properties of more than 2,800 acres and more than 22 miles of saltwater and freshwater shore on Cobscook and Passamaquoddy bays with Great Auk Land Trust’s 26 properties of more than 1,100 acres and more than 20 miles of seacoast in Greater Pleasant Bay. In addition, Quoddy Regional Land Trust also manages Cobscook Trails and Great Auk Land Trust helps manage the Pigeon Hill Vista and Recreation Preserve in Steuben.

Maine’s conservation community is hailing the merger. “The Down East conservation opportunities are so vast and challenging that a new approach is needed,” Michael Tetreault, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Maine, recently said. “This is a bold step that will create an operating framework that will surely lead to greater conservation accomplishments.”

Boutureira said the two groups have been collaborating for years, and both memberships appear to be greatly in support of the merger.

“Merging these two strong institutions will help ensure that the conservation goals that led to Great Auk’s formation 20 years ago will continue to be realized into the future,” said Les Coleman, president of Great Auk Land Trust.

In a similar message, David Dowley, president of Quoddy Regional Land Trust, said, “With our resources and revenues pooled, we will emerge as a strong, vibrant and visionary organization better able to serve our communities and steward our lands.”

Boutureira said the Downeast Coastal Conservancy’s role “can be part of the community’s development and tourism.

“The state has a tradition of public use of private lands. As that shifts, the land trust can work with towns. After all, what is a conservancy? Is it really just dollars and acres? Or does it reflect our values, does it reflect our working waterfronts and community needs?”

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