Courtesy of Maine Woods Forever. Massabesic Middle School’s 7th Grade Aroostook Team accepts the Teddy Roosevelt Maine Conservation Award (front: 7th Grade Team members Andrew Lawpaugh, Brenna Ramsdell; back: John Rust of Maine Woods Forever, 7th grade science teacher Patrick Parent)

The recipients of the 2016 “Teddy Roosevelt Maine Conservation Award” were recently announced by Maine Woods Forever, an organization dedicated to celebrating and protecting the legacy of Maine’s forests and woodlands. The annual award, now in its second year, recognizes young people and youth groups who are acting to conserve the Maine wilderness and outdoor heritage.

This year, three recipients were selected to receive the “Teddy Roosevelt Maine Conservation Award”: Bar Harbor Eagle Scout Breaux Higgins; the Massabesic Middle School’s 7th grade Aroostook Team; and The Rangeley Region Guides & Sportsmen’s Association.

The 2016 awards were first announced on April 15, at the Maine Woods Forever’s 33rd roundtable event held at Unity College’s Center for Performing Arts. Conservation professionals from throughout the state of Maine were present for the event.

The award is named in honor of Theodore Roosevelt, who as the 26th President of the United States, Roosevelt made conservation a top priority during his time in office (Sept. 14, 1901 – March 4, 1909). Roosevelt established new national parks, forests and monuments to preserve natural resources and ensure these places would be enjoyed by future generations. He also spent a great deal of time enjoying the wilderness of Maine.

“Many credit [Roosevelt’s] rugged sojourns in Maine during the late 1800s with shaping his determination to conserve our natural world,” said John Rust, chairman of the award committee, in a prepared statement.This year’s awardees have clearly lived up to this ethic.”

The award recognizes young people and youth groups “whose efforts are in the spirit of [Theodore] Roosevelt’s conservation ethic and achievements.” Maine Woods Forever also aims for the award to encourage youth to become future conservation leaders.

Young man helps conserve Acadia history

The first award recipient called to the stage on April 15 was Breaux Higgins, an Eagle Scout from Bar Harbor, who recently completed a project to help restore and preserve historic Bates Cairns at Acadia National Park. Partnering with the US National Park Service staff at Acadia, Higgins developed a program to create public awareness about the historic significance and importance of Bates cairns. This program includes new educational signs, now on display in strategic locations throughout the park.

Courtesy of Maine Woods Forever. Breaux Higgins (R) accepts the Teddy Roosevelt Maine Conservation Award from John Rust (L) of Maine Woods Forever.
Courtesy of Maine Woods Forever.
Breaux Higgins (R) accepts the Teddy Roosevelt Maine Conservation Award from John Rust (L) of Maine Woods Forever.

Bates Cairns are simple stone trail markers designed by Acadia “Pathmaker” Waldron Bates, who established many of the park’s trails in the late 1800s. Due to the lack of public knowledge about these stone piles, visitors to the park often add or remove rocks from the cairns, build new ones and destroy them completely. This behavior has been a safety issue at the park for many years because it can lead hikers astray. It’s also a natural resource issue because rocks are taken from already thin mountain soil, which may lead to erosion.

Middle schoolers engage in citizen science projects

The Massabesic Middle School’s 7th grade Aroostook Team was called to the stage next to receive the Teddy Roosevelt Maine Conservation Award for outstanding achievement by a youth organization. The school is located in East Waterboro.

“Each year, this group of about 80 7th graders impact and influence others because they experience their natural world, its complexities and its importance,” said Pat Maloney, Coordinator of Maine Project Learning Tree, in a prepared statement. “They communicate their passions, their knowledge and their appreciation of the Maine woods as a natural system in need of human understanding.”

Courtesy of Maine Woods Forever.  Massabesic Middle School’s 7th Grade Aroostook Team accepts the Teddy Roosevelt Maine Conservation Award (front: 7th Grade Team members Andrew Lawpaugh, Brenna Ramsdell; back: John Rust of Maine Woods Forever, 7th grade science teacher Patrick Parent)
Courtesy of Maine Woods Forever.
Massabesic Middle School’s 7th Grade Aroostook Team accepts the Teddy Roosevelt Maine Conservation Award (front: 7th Grade Team members Andrew Lawpaugh, Brenna Ramsdell; back: John Rust of Maine Woods Forever, 7th grade science teacher Patrick Parent)

Students of the Aroostook Team participate in citizen science projects, studying environmental conditions concerning Maine’s forests. For example, the students recently participated in the 2nd Annual Invasive Species Forum, which reached over 100 community members and hundreds more of their peers. They also participated in Invasive Plant Patrol training and certification with the Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program, assisted the York County Soil and Water Conservation District with a survey of the state endangered New England Cottontail, and surveyed their home towns for forest pests such as red pine scale, hemlock wooly adelgid, and winter moth.

The award was accepted by 7th grade Aroostook Team students, Brenna Ramsdell and Andrew Lawpaugh, both of Limerick, and their 7th grade science teacher Patrick Parent.

Rangeley looks to the future with Junior Guides Program

The Rangeley Region Guides & Sportsmen’s Association received the Teddy Roosevelt Maine Conservation Award for outstanding achievement by a youth organization to recognize their Junior Guides Program, which offers children ages 9 through 12 — as well as graduate Junior Counselors (ages 13-18) — an education in outdoor skills through hands-on experiences.

“This program has done an excellent job of educating, preserving and protecting the future of our natural resources while sharing the rich outdoor traditions and history of the region,” said Bill Pierce, Executive Director of the Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum in Rangeley, in a prepared statement. “The program has had alumni return every year as Junior Counselors who volunteer and help indoctrinate new Junior Guides.”

Courtesy of Maine Woods Forever. John Rust (L) presenting the Teddy Roosevelt Maine Conservation Award to the Rangeley Region Guides & Sportsmen’s Association represented by Sam Spaulding (R)
Courtesy of Maine Woods Forever. John Rust (L) presenting the Teddy Roosevelt Maine Conservation Award to the Rangeley Region Guides & Sportsmen’s Association represented by Sam Spaulding (R)

“The children of the Rangeley community, often from single parent or overly-busy families that may not have otherwise had these experiences, have benefited greatly,” Pierce continued. “Parents have witnessed its lasting rewards highlighted in the sun-kissed faces and rousing stories of their now empowered and confident children.”

Sam Spaulding accepted the award on behalf of the Rangeley Region Guides & Sportsmen’s Association.

To learn more about the Teddy Roosevelt Maine Conservation Award and how to nominate a person or organization for this award, visit the Maine Woods Forever website at www.mainewoodsforever.org.

Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn Sarnacki is a Maine outdoors writer and the author of three Maine hiking guidebooks including “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine.” Find her on Twitter and Facebook @1minhikegirl. You can also...