Tuesday January 22, 2013 | 03:16 PM
Posted by Mike Tetreault

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.

Forests near Greenville are protected under conservation easement, marked by this sign.

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.

So after two delightful days at the Gorman and Chairback camps, I skied out in freshly fallen snow. It was a bright day with sparkling light glinting off the fresh flakes. On my way home, I stopped at Northwoods Outfitters in Greenville, which I like to do whenever I’m in the area.  I wanted a fresh cup of coffee and I wanted to talk with the store owner, Mike Boutin, who has a great pulse on what is happening in the area. 

Boutin told me that this winter has been a tough one and that January sales are slow. Tourism has been stalled in the area since 2008, when the recession began. And now, Boutin is competing for sales with Internet-based stores.  It's a trying time for the small businesses in places like Greenville. 

So although the Conservation Framework is completed,  we all still have a lot of work to do to deliver on its potential benefits to the communities of Moosehead Lake. We have great partners in the Forest Society of Maine and the Appalachian Mountain Club, both of whom have offices in Greenville.  And there are local people like Mike Boutin, who are committed to their community for the long term.

It will take all of us, working together, to build a future for the Moosehead region and its people.  And this challenge is something we’re facing in rural communities throughout Maine and beyond.

Conservationists are beginning to engage more actively with the communities where we work, connecting conservation with economic development. The Maine Woods Consortium is training hospitality workers in customer service, and working with woods products industries to improve their “triple bottom line” – serving their economy, environment and community. And the Katahdin Woods & Waters Scenic Byway project in Millinocket is working to encourage nature-based tourism.

This is just the kind of cooperation that Mane needs. I, for one, can’t wait to go back to Greenville next winter --  and in subsequent years -- to see all that we can do when we come together to focus on community development and conservation.

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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.


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