Topsham-based Maine Coast Heritage Trust appointed a new president and CEO, Kate Stookey, who will take over the position in February 2022.

Kate Stookey will take over as president and CEO of Topsham-based Maine Coast Heritage Trust in February 2022. Photo courtesy of Kate Stookey

Stookey said she’s thrilled to join the Maine Coast Heritage Trust because the organization’s work in land conservation and stewardship “is the intersection of everything I have valued most in my life and my work.”

Maine Coast Heritage Trust is a statewide land trust organization that aims to preserve coastal access for communities and improve coastal resilience to climate change while maintaining a network of over 150 coastal and island preserves free and open to everyone.

“Growing up in Maine, I’ve seen the shifts, changes and increase in pressure on Maine’s coast and I believe deeply in keeping it open and healthy and accessible to the people who live, work and play there,” Stookey said. “This provides me with an incredible opportunity to give back to the state and help preserve and protect so many of the places I grew up stomping around in as a kid that helped form me. My love of the outdoors was born in Maine and the opportunity to help protect that for future generations is incredibly special.”

In her new role at the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Stookey said her goals, which align with the land trust’s long-term plan, center around working with local communities to protecting the coastal areas from the impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise, storm surge and shoreline erosion.

Stookey named the organization’s Marshes for Tomorrow Initiative as an example of the conservation’s programs she’s looking forward to working on. The initiative works to protect undeveloped land around Maine’s marshes, like the one in Merrymeeting Bay, so when global sea level rises between one and two meters over the next century as projected and the marshes become inundated with water, marsh plants will have places to reestablish themselves and keep the habitat intact.

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Stookey said she’s also focused on securing public access to Maine’s coast and working together with other land trusts to achieve shared goals.

“There are so many individuals, families and communities that are affected by Maine’s coast and its islands,” said Stookey. “A personal goal of mine is to make sure all those affected have a say, … understand their different perspectives and work as best I can to bring the diverse groups together toward a common solution.”

The hunt for a new president and CEO for the organization began after current President Tim Glidden announced his plan to retire at the end of this year after holding the position since 2011. Board Chairman Tom Armstrong will serve as interim president before Stookey takes over in the new year.

“Kate is a dynamic organizational leader with demonstrated success as a collaborator and bridge builder,” Armstrong wrote in a statement released Monday. “Increasingly, the work of land conservation is about forging relationships across diverse groups of people and interests. Kate brings precisely the quality of inclusive leadership that is needed at this moment, especially in this era of climate change and the challenges it poses to the Maine coast.”

Raised in the coastal town of Blue Hill, she is the daughter of Noel “Paul” Stookey, a musician best known for his role in the former folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary and for his 1971 composition, “The Wedding Song (There Is Love).”

Kate Stookey is leaving her current position of executive director of Revels, a national cultural arts nonprofit based in Watertown, Mass., to join the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. Prior to that, she worked for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission for nearly a decade, which she said, “made me realize the deep love I have for conservation, preservation and connecting people to the outdoors.”

In a statement issued Monday announcing the news, the land trust wrote Stookey is joining the land trust “at a time of great momentum and opportunity for land conservation” as pressures on preserving coastal communities’ resources are ever-increasing.

The land trust recently completed a $130 million campaign to protect over 11,000 coastal acres, creating 36 new public preserves, and becoming the state’s leader in creating permanent access to the coast.

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