Maine Coast Heritage Trust President Kate Stookey visits Woodward Point Preserve in Brunswick on August 25, 2022. MCHT and Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust partnered to conserve the 87-acre property in 2019. John Terhune / The Times Record

Kate Stookey spent her childhood roaming the outdoors of Blue Hill. She remembers boating to little islands to camp on the beach, called back only by her mother’s clanging of the dinner bell.

Now, after spending two decades developing leadership skills in Boston, Washington D.C. and Azerbaijan, Stookey has been called back to Maine with a new mission — protect the outdoors she grew to love as a girl.

“This is my favorite place on the planet,” said Stookey, who took over as president of Maine Coast Heritage Trust in February. “I think a lot of people in Maine feel the same way.”

Maine Coast Heritage Trust has preserved over 170,000 acres and 330 islands since its founding in 1970, according to the nonprofit’s website. The organization works with the more than 80 local land trusts around the state to conserve outdoor spaces for both the delicate ecosystems that depend on them and the people that enjoy them.

A 2021 search for outgoing president Tim Glidden’s replacement drew qualified candidates from across the nation, according to Tom Armstrong, chair of the trust’s board. Stookey, who most recently worked as the executive director of performing arts nonprofit Revels but also has experience in marketing and public affairs, stood out because of her diverse background and ability to connect with people.

“We were looking for a dynamic organizational leader, someone who has demonstrated success as a collaborator, a bridge-builder, with partner organizations,” he said. “We’re thrilled with Kate. We feel she’s absolutely the right person for this job and will help guide the organization in the in the years ahead.”


Since moving to Penobscot with her husband and two children in February, Stookey said she has been in “deep sponge mode,” attempting to soak up as much knowledge about Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the state’s land conservation system as possible.

The importance of protecting ecosystems has only grown since the days of her Blue Hill adventures, she said. She pointed to climate change, which threatens to destroy coastal salt-water marshes, and to a red-hot real estate market slowly choking off public access to the coast.

“The development pressures are huge and increasing,” Stookey said. “We’re losing a lot of public access to the coast, and that’s something that MCHT is really dedicated to preserving for people who live here, for people whose livelihoods depend on the coast, and for people who visit.”

Maine Coast Heritage Trust has been involved in over half of the state’s newly protected coastal access sites in the past eight years, according to Stookey.

The process of preserving those lands often involves a complicated dance between several groups, which makes Stookey’s “tremendous people skills” essential, said Caroline Norden, a conservation consultant who spent over a decade at Maine Coast Heritage Trust.

“When you’re purchasing property, or negotiating the purchase of property, you’re often putting together deals that involve many, many players and many different conservation groups and donors. They’re complex, and they involve really being good at listening and hearing what people value and what matters to them.”

Stookey agreed that finding more ways to partner with local groups like the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust and Island Workforce Housing on Deer Isle are keys helping Maine Coast Heritage Trust confront the challenges ahead. By working directly communities, she hopes to draw even more public support for conservation at a time when more Mainers are turning to outdoor recreation than ever before.

“There’s still work to be done,” she said. “Preserving Maine’s natural resources is absolutely critical, and every resident and visitor of Maine has a part to play.”

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