MACHIAS, Maine — The Downeast Coastal Conservancy, poised to continue work on a major initiative and to continue plans for a second, has tapped a new executive director for the conservation organization.
Richard Bard, a state wildlife biologist in Washington County for the past nine years, was named recently by the organization’s board of directors to the leadership post. Bard recently resigned his state job and will begin his new duties later this month. He replaced Tom Boutureira, the conservancy’s previous executive director.
Bard, 42, is no stranger to the conservancy or the work of conservation and land management. He served on the organization’s governing board for two years and on the conservancy’s land committee for three years. As a regional wildlife biologist for the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, he co-managed 10,000 acres of public land for wildlife and monitored nearly 20 conservation easements.
The mission of the Downeast Coastal Conservancy is conserving the natural habitats and resources of coastal watersheds, islands and communities of Washington County. It manages about 6,000 acres it has purchased or on which it holds conservation easements. The properties are located roughly between Meddybemps and Steuben. Besides conserving land, the organization emphasizes providing public access to properties and public education.
“The new mode is protect it with people,” Bard said in an interview this week. There remains a place for more restrictive conservation measures, he suggested — for example, in order to protect sensitive habitat for nesting seabirds.
Boutureira “did an amazing job,” said Bard, and left the organization on a “great footing.” Bard wants to expand, to add more recreational opportunities and to get more people involved and strengthen their connection to the land. He also wants to work with the local agriculture movement, helping to conserve local farms growing food that is sold locally.
The conservancy is a “group of local people,” Bard emphasized, not an entity of the state or federal governments.
“We are very pleased that Rich emerged from an extensive search as our new executive director,” David Dowley, a building contractor from Roque Bluffs who serves as president of the conservancy’s board of directors, said Friday. Bard is “well-equipped” for the position, he said, adding that the board “couldn’t be more pleased” with his appointment.
The conservancy has a strategic plan in place and will be focused mainly on two initiatives in 2014, said Dowley. “Rich will be good for those directions.”
The organization will be working to “fulfill the promises” of the Two Rivers campaign, he said, as well as move forward with plans to refocus attention on a historic canoe trail used by the Passamaquoddy Tribe that includes Cobscook Bay as well as the Orange River in Whiting.
The Two Rivers project will conserve two properties along the Machias River and Middle River totaling more than 1,000 acres and 4.5 miles of shoreline.
“One of the main focuses of the Two Rivers campaign was to bring attention to Machias as a recreation destination,” said Dowley, to attract visitors who will want to take the two-hour hike along a trail and spend a day or two in the area. “We’re hoping this will spur some economic development in the area,” he said. The Machias Valley Chamber of Commerce is working to finish restoration of the town’s old railroad station, which is located near the head of the trail and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Two Rivers property is located adjacent to the Sunrise Trail, which passes through Machias and “has its own tourism base,” noted Bard. The conservancy will take steps in the spring to develop trails on the Two Rivers property and decide how to manage the site, he said.
Bard lives on Swiftwater Farm in East Machias with his wife, Becky, and their two children, Zoe, 16, and Max, 11. He is raising 11 multipurpose cows for beef and milk, employing a system of rotational grazing to help restore an old pasture, which he termed an “ecological model for farming.” He also has four goats and is in the process of building a “high tunnel,” a 30×50 metal frame greenhouse covered with plastic that will enable him to grow vegetables in the late fall and early spring.
The conservancy has a staff of only two — Bard plus assistant director Becky Lee — but also uses a few contractors and has a cadre of about 30 volunteers.
Dowley has served as president of the board since the conservancy was formed by the merger of two other organizations in 2011. The predecessor organizations, each with about 20 years of history, were the Quoddy Regional Land Trust, which focused on conservation efforts in the Cobscook Bay region, and the Great Auk Land Trust, which focused on the Pleasant Bay region in the southern portion of Washington County.
The merger has bridged the conservation efforts in opposite ends of the county, observed Dowley, and created a “much more robust organization” that can accomplish more. The Two Rivers project has demonstrated the ability of the conservancy “to raise significant funds for conservation in the communities,” he said.