Monday, May 20, 2013
Mike Tetreault leads The Nature Conservancy in Maine, where he works with partners in conservation, government and community development to identify solutions which ensure that Maine's natural resources are available for people and for nature.
He holds a degree in environmental studies from Brown and a MS from the field naturalist program at the University of Vermont, and has studied resource management in Kenya, Mexico and throughout New England.
Tetreault started his career teaching wilderness leadership and environmental education, and has worked for The Nature Conservancy since 1998. He lives in Bath with his wife, their daughter and a menagerie of pets.
I’ve hiked many a mile over land in the Maine woods that didn’t belong to me. And I just might have eaten a few berries along the way.
This week, state legislators considered a bill that would require landowner access to pick fiddleheads, prompting a debate about just what should be allowed on private land.
The Nature Conservancy isn’t formally taking a position on this issue, but the discussion got me thinking about what we can all do personally to protect both Maine’s natural places and the opportunity to enjoy them.
Maine has one of the smallest percentages of public land in the nation – with a full 90 percent in private ownership. But we’re proud of our rare and longstanding tradition of allowing public access to private lands.
With the legislative session underway, I don’t see much of my colleague Tom Abello. Many of his days are spent up at the State House working with the administration and legislators on both sides of aisle on a wide array of policy issues and bills. The Nature Conservancy might weigh in on a policy related to land conservation, tax policy, fisheries, mining and the state budget. These issues are complex and solutions require an open mind, and often, the ability to compromise.
The stories he brings back from Augusta are treat for me to hear. They are a reinforcement that Mainers - regardless of where we come from, what party we belong to, or where we live - care deeply about the natural world.
For example, he recently shared a conversation he had about the difficulty facing Maine’s fishing industry with Sen. Chris Johnson, the Senate Chair of the Marine Resources. Johnson hails from Lincoln County and is working hard to solve many of the issues, whether related to groundfish, shrimp or lobsters.
Representative Jeff Timberlake, from Turner, owns Ricker Hill Orchards. Wild turkeys were on the top of his mind as Timberlake’s apple trees are taking a beating from turkeys looking for a meal. He was walking eagerly into the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee Room to testify in favor of expanding the state’s wild turkey hunting season and bag limit. In his hand as evidence was pussy willow branches stripped of their buds.
On a day when we’re facing predictions of a “historic blizzard,” I’m excited about the possibility of getting outside to enjoy some real Maine winter weather.
When I travel outside of Maine, I’m often asked the key to surviving its lengthy winters. And while I can’t speak for everyone, my secret weapon is a pair of skis. With skis, I can access the forests I hike in the summertime, and get to observe the woods in a whole new setting. As I glide through the shimmering landscape, the trees are stripped bare of their leaves and I get a glimpse of the ephemeral foundation of the forest.
Mainers have discovered that winter is infinitely more enjoyable with an outdoor sport or activity. The short, cold days are bearable with a snowshoe hike or ice fishing session. Six-plus inches in one snowfall, temperatures in the negatives, and whipping winds are shrugged off when one is able to experience the upside of winter.
Still, cabin fever can get the best of us, especially as winter persists into March, and sometimes even April. Fortunately, Maine is ripe with new opportunities to appreciate the season, such as Great Maine Outdoor Weekend and The Nature Conservancy’s Ski-Stakes.
“It’s midnight and getting darker.”
I heard a commercial fisherman and former New England Fisheries Management Council member offer these words during his testimony yesterday, and they remained in my mind as a perfect summation of the mood in New England’s fishing communities.
Last week I had a chance to ski into the Appalachian Mountain Club's Gorman Chairback Lodge on Long Pond with some colleagues from the conservation community. As we drove from Greenville to the trailhead, a healthy looking red fox with white socks and black-tipped tail crossed the road ahead of us.
It was a brisk day for our ski in - the snow was hard-packed, and the skis were fast. Coming around a corner, I encountered a sign, a reminder that I was skiing through the Moosehead Region Conservation Framework.
This was my first time back in the landscape since we closed on the conservation easement last May, and the sign evoked a flurry of emotions. I was struck with a deep sense of satisfaction and achievement knowing that this very land would forever be conserved. I was reminded of all the people who worked so diligently on all sides of the project to make it come to fruition. And I was very curious about how things have changed in the Greenville region as a result of the project. We will only succeed in our hopes for a healthy and strong state if our conservation work is beneficial to local communities.