Each fall Midcoast Conservancy’s property monitors trek into the far flung reaches of Midcoast Maine to explore undisturbed forests, blueberry fields, marshes, bogs, scenic homesteads, and everything in between, all in the name of conservation! You see, each of the 14,000 acres of land under Midcoast Conservancy’s stewardship need to be walked each year. This ensures that there have been no timber trespasses, dumping, or other activities that impact the ecological integrity of the land.
Monitoring is accomplished by a combination of trained volunteers and staff that visit each of the 162 monitoring units, ranging in size from one to 544 acres. Part relationship building, part scavenger hunt, and part history lesson, property monitoring is undoubtedly one of the best parts of my job.
To be a good monitor, one has to understand the historical and current uses of the land. This requires reading up on the land use history – where there were fields and homesteads and timber harvests – as well as looking at the land’s importance to humans now. Each year we check in with easement landowners to see if anything has changed on their protected property and invite them to join us for the monitoring visit. These conversations always reveal a deep care for the land they call home, sometimes chronicling decades or generations of careful stewardship.
Property monitors also try to understand how the community and neighbors may be using the land, especially on Midcoast Conservancy-owned preserves with public access. Understanding these relationships helps provide a dynamic picture of all the ways people are interacting with the land, and the value it provides to the community.
Property monitoring also entails checking the boundaries of the property. Boundaries are marked in various ways, from stone walls and barbed wire to traditional blazing on trees, and some are much easier to find than others! Like following a trail of bread crumbs through the forest, walking the boundary requires heightened senses to scan for the next mark and a good sense of humor when you lose the trail. My personal favorite is when I find a boundary graced by enormous trees that were spared cutting because they marked the property line. Some of the largest trees I have seen in Midcoast Maine have been these ancient boundary trees!
Property monitoring is always an adventure and I am tremendously grateful for all our volunteers that partake in this adventure year after year! For more information about monitoring or becoming a volunteer monitor, call me at 389-5163 or email email@example.com.
(Midcoast Conservancy is an innovative conservation organization working to protect and restore vital lands and waters on a scale that matters. For more information, go to midcoastconservancy.org.)