A team of Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies students will help the Maine West initiative integrate the region’s community, economic, health, and educational values into a newly developed regional conservation planning tool, which will lay the groundwork for a Maine West region conservation plan and guide ongoing community conservation efforts.
“What attracted me to this project was the interdisciplinary approach the Maine West team is using to promote conservation. To be successful preserving land, conservation must be able to bring together these different communities that interact with the land as a shared resource,” said Robert Turnbull. “It’s a real privilege to try uniting these perspectives in the Maine West region.” Turnbull is collaborating with fellow Yale FES graduate student Ben Williamson on this project.
Robert and Ben will use a GIS mapping program created for the Maine West team by the Trust for Public Land with support from the Regional Conservation Partnership network, and the Open Space Institute to help integrate climate resilience and human health into Maine West’s regional conservation research. They will interview local partners and conduct a literature review to add depth to their study.
The Northern Forest Center coordinates the Maine West initiative, a collaboration of 13 organizations working to increase connectivity across the conservation, economic, health and education sectors throughout 27 towns in Western Maine. Participants include three land trusts, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, and Oxford County Wellness Collaborative.
“We are excited to have these graduate students helping us explore holistic conservation opportunities in the Maine West region,” said Mike Wilson, senior program director for the Center. “They are bringing fresh eyes, skills and perspective to work that we know is important for rural communities.”
This project dovetails with the Center’s programs in the Maine West region and is part of an overall effort to engage more deeply with area schools. The project will place special emphasis on developing active communities to help meet local needs to access outdoor spaces and to increase awareness about the Second Nature Adventure Challenge in Bethel.
Robert and Ben ’s work will use the GIS conservation planning tool to identify priority conversation areas in the Maine West region for the next 5-10 years. For example, an open field near a school or community center may be ranked highly because it would support local science education, outdoor recreation, and community health, while a patch of forestland may be ranked lowly because it is many miles from a populated area. A long-term goal of the Maine West region work includes learning how to combine traditional sources of conservation, economic development, health, and education funding to bring community conservation projects to fruition. Robert and Ben’s study will help lay the strategic groundwork necessary to launch an enduring community conservation effort in the Maine West region.