Friday August 16, 2013 | 09:45 AM
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 Kate Dempsey, director of external affairs for The Nature Conservancy in Maine:
 
 
MT: What is your favorite childhood memory of the outdoors?
KD: I grew up in the city, so being outdoors for me meant playing in the street. I have lots of memories of running around the neighborhood and climbing trees. I loved playing soccer and that the sense of freedom I felt on the open fields. And one of my favorite memories is from when I was eight or nine years old. I remember picking up crab apples from the road and throwing them up to the bats at dusk – I liked watching them dive toward the apples.
 
MT: What pulls you outside into nature? And what are your favorite outdoor activities?
KD: One of my absolute favorite things to do is visit Popham Beach State Park in Phippsburg. I love going there every season of the year. In the summer, I love going there because it’s a great space for families; we can all be so care-free running into the waves and the tide pools.  I love it in the winter because I am one of the few people on the expansive beach. Being at Popham reminds me of my place in the world – it reminds me that nature is much bigger than I am.
 
MT: What hidden treasure in Maine should be at the top of everyone’s To-Visit list?
KD: Phippsburg Land Trust owns a property called, Sprague Pond Preserve, it’s adjacent to The Nature Conservancy’s Basin Preserve. You can park right along Route 209 and then walk a half mile trail to the pond. The pond is really beautiful, it’s deep and pristine, and there are very few people there (but now you know about it!). There’s a perfect rock along the pond where you and the kids can fish and dive into the pond. If you start at The Basin Preserve, you can hike the six mile loop and stop at the pond to take a dip to cool off and then carry on along the trail.
 
MT: When was the last time you ventured into nature to seek the thrills of adventure? And what did you do?
KD: This past September I went to Montana for work and I extended the trip so I could do some hiking near Great Falls. I had never hiked out West before, but I realized it was a lot easier than hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The trails are newer in Montana, so they’re better graded. There was also the thrill of wildlife – I was worried about grizzlies the entire time and even carried bear spray. We saw a wolf run past us on a ridge as well.
 
MT: How do you get outdoors and enjoy Maine’s winter wonderland during the snowy months?
KD: I love Maine in the winter I love how there are so days when the sun shines so brightly during the winter. I like it best when there’s snow on the ground so I can go snowshoeing and build snow forts with the kids.
 
MT: If you had one day to spend on an ultimate outdoor adventure, what would it consist of?
KD: I would go enter the north part of Baxter Park through the Matagamon entrance. I’d do some hiking on the trails there and paddle on Upper South Branch Pond. And then I’d sit on a little beach there, share a meal with friends, and finally get into a tent at the end of the day. I love how you can do so much in Baxter without actually hiking Mount Katahdin. The trails are so accessible – it’s great for families.
 
MT: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from your experiences in nature?
KD: I’ve learned to love nature and appreciate it in a way I never did as a kid. I was an urban planner; I cared about urban issues and then began to learn about how nature affects urban communities. I learned about the connection between nature and human well-being – this is what first drew me to the environmental field.
 
MT: If you could thank nature for one thing what would it be?
KD: I am thankful for nature for reminding me that I’m just a speck on the planet. When I’m sitting on the beach after a tough day, I am reminded that the world is much bigger than my one bad day, which really doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. And I am thankful for nature’s expansive qualities. I thank nature for allowing my brain and for my soul to be expanded.

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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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