Charles Gauvin moves into his new role as executive director of Maine Audubon this week. He worked previously for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C., and as president and CEO of Trout Unlimited.
During his time at Trout Unlimited in Arlington, Virginia, Gauvin increased the national nonprofit’s staff from 20 to 165. Asked if he had plans to grow Maine Audubon, he responded: “Absolutely.”
Gauvin believes the potential for the Maine conservation organization at Gilsland Farm in Falmouth is tremendous. He has spent his career in conservation as well as helping organizations grow and expand.
Previously, Gauvin worked as a strategic adviser to France’s ambassador to the United States on ways to create partnerships between U.S. and French research institutions. He started his career as an attorney at Beveridge and Diamond, P.C., one of the nation’s leading environmental law firms in Washington, D.C.
The past 14 years Gauvin has lived on a New Gloucester farm with his wife, painter Gina Sawin. During those years Gauvin commuted to Washington for the work week and is definitely looking forward to living in Maine full-time, seven days a week.
So we know you’re a fisherman having worked for Trout Unlimited, but are you a birder?
I love birds, actually. I have an (English) springer spaniel and we do a little bird hunting for woodcock. I’ve been a fan of migratory birds for a long time. I live on a farm in New Gloucester and follow the seasons by the migrating birds.
How will your past work at Trout Unlimited benefit Maine Audubon?
I ran it from a real growth perspective, from a $2.5 million annual budget to a $30 million budget. I think the programs we will develop and fund will raise the profile of Maine Audubon. And I think it has the potential to grow bigger. It even has the potential to be of even greater consequence. It is our wildlife organization in Maine. It has the ability to reach out to people in all phases of life, from little kids to seniors, and it has the ability to engage everyone. I would like to see the broadest spectrum of engagement between Maine Audubon and other outdoor groups. Maine Audubon can do all of these things.
What are some of the first things you want to do when you take over Maine Audubon?
I want to get to know everyone. Then take the first step to forming a new strategic plan for Maine Audubon, to take a hard look at what the opportunities and threats are, and grow it financially, to look at what new initiatives we’ll start. I want to increase its profile in Maine.
What are some new initiatives you’re thinking about?
I’d really like to look at how birds are doing in the face of climate change in the northern forest. It’s important for bird species. I’d also like the approach to be more holistic, to look at the whole forest. The issues that affect brook trout in the northern forest are some of the same issues that affect birds. I’d like to look at the whole ecosystem there and get the most out of that refuge in the face of serious threats to birds as well as fish. Maine is one of two states that sees the worst effects of climate change. Maine and Vermont have seen the most serious changes in annual mean temperatures, so they’re important states to consider in terms of climate change.
I’d also like to look at how we can use existing programs to get at the problems and challenges that are most prevalent in the southern part of the state. The northern forest is made up of unorganized townships, but there is a lot of wildlife habitat in southern Maine, too.
What will it take to make people who know little about wildlife issues take notice of Maine Audubon?
I think Maine Audubon needs to develop strategies to connect more people with wildlife. Almost everyone who lives in this state lives here because this place still supports self-sustaining populations of all kinds of fauna and wildlife. We need to connect people with wildlife. And also to show them that wildlife is a bigger part of the Maine economy than people think. I think Maine Audubon needs to be a broker for those things, to develop education and advocacy programs people can relate to. We are the nature of Maine because Maine Audubon has a broad spectrum of members, it represents the state’s values, and it is nonpartisan.
Given your years at Trout Unlimited you must be a fisherman, so where do you like to fish in Maine?
I’m a regular up on the Kennebago and the Magalloway. I’m absolutely addicted to fishing for brook trout, anywhere I can find moving water.