Thursday August 01, 2013 | 02:35 PM
Posted by Mike Tetreault

Nature is me. And yes, nature is you too.  

How do I know this to be true? Because your photo and recipe entries for the Nature is ME contest prove it each and every day. From images of snowy landscapes, spiders and summits, to recipes for delicious sandwiches and pies, you show how nature is simply a part of who we are in Maine. We are all connected to nature in so many different ways. But what about conservationists? How are conservationists – people who devote their lives to protecting nature itself – connected to nature? I turned to my friends and colleagues to find out. This week, I chatted with Tom Rumpf, Acting State Director for The Nature Conservancy in Maine:

 

MT: What is your favorite childhood memory of the outdoors?
TR: I had many. I grew up in southeastern Iowa and my mother had grown up on a farm south of my town. She used to take us on this hike along the railroad tracks by the river to her farm. We would stop at this spring that came out of limestone bluffs to collect watercress, which my mother would use to make salads and such. We would always explore all the caves in the bluffs. Growing up we didn’t watch much TV, we didn’t even have one until I was five or six. So during the summer months my mother would tell us to just go outside and play with our friends. We’d play all day long – “unstructured play” as we call it today.
 
MT: What pulls you outside into nature? And what are your favorite outdoor activities?
TR: Some of the most powerful experiences I’ve had have been outdoor trips – river trips, camping, hiking. Just the pace of being in a natural place is different; it’s meditative in a way. I’ve done a lot of hiking with my wife, but I also do urban activities too: running, golfing, biking. Once a year I go on a sea kayaking trip with my brother and sister who both live in the Boston area. It’s nice to do something outdoors with them each year.
 
MT: What hidden treasure in Maine should be at the top of everyone's to-visit list?
TR: The working forest of the North Woods, where few people live. There are some really interesting places such as the St. John lands. They are so remote, it’s a very unique experience – all the roads are private; there are no human settlements. To some a working forest, particularly where a recent harvest has taken place, is not particularly aesthetic, but the geographic size of the block of intact forest in northern Maine is really something to see.
 
MT: If you had one day to spend on an ultimate outdoor adventure, what would it consist of?
TR: I would hike Mount Katahdin in the winter. I was watching Bill Green’s Maine the other day and it had a clip of this guy who has built the longest zip line in Maine at his house – it’s 1,000 feet long! That would be fun to do.
 
MT: What is the best outdoor experience you've had beyond Maine's borders?
TR: Backpacking in Gates of the Arctic National Park in Alaska with a friend a couple of years ago. There were no trails; we walked straight across the tundra. We also spent a few days in Denali National Park.
 
MT: What is the most important lesson you've learned from your experiences in nature?
TR: I’ve learned to have some patience. Sometimes it’s helpful not to rush into things. I’ve learned to appreciate the opportunities we have here in Maine and realize what a wonderful place it is if you like the outdoors.
 
MT: If you could thank nature for one thing what would it be?
TR: For supporting us in all the ways it does, both physically and spiritually.

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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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