Vol. 4, No. 1
1999 Visionary, Longard Awards recognize spirit of stewardship in the Gulf
By Suzy Fried, Editor
Portsmouth, New Hampshire - Recognizing the immeasurable value of contributions to sustaining, improving, and protecting the marine environment made by those who embody innovative spirit, creativity, and commitment, the Gulf of Maine Council annually presents its Visionary Award to two individuals or organizations from each province and state bordering the Gulf.
The Council also annually recognizes an outstanding volunteer from the Gulf region with its Art Longard Award, memorializing a founding member of the Council's working group who died of cancer in 1997. Longard believed strongly in the importance of volunteers' contributions in conserving Gulf of Maine resources.
Art Longard Award
Ruth Batchelder Alexander
Alexander's family summered at a camp on Rocky Island in the Great Marsh, so called because it is the largest contiguous salt marsh north of Long Island, New York. "The day after school was out, we were down there," she says, recalling memories of digging for clams before dawn, and helping farmers gather newly cut marsh hay.
Recently, Alexander donated almost all of her property on the marsh - more than 100 acres and a summer home that she shared with her late husband, Don - to the Essex County Greenbelt Association. The Marine Biological Lab in Woods Hole leases the house as a field station for ecosystem studies, which Alexander says gives her great satisfaction, as she has encouraged local educational institutions for years to take an interest in the marsh.
Alexander continues to advocate for better enforcement of state conservation laws to protect the marsh from damaging activities.
Great Marsh advocates say Alexander's enthusiasm, spirit, and vision have inspired diverse organizations to collaborate on developing a plan for land protection, marsh restoration, water quality improvement, and fisheries restoration in the marsh.
But Alexander prefers to think of herself as just one of many contributors on its behalf. "There are so many people who love the Marsh," she says. "Occasionally I have something to contribute."
Rochester Department of Public Works
For annual river cleanups, the DPW has provided equipment and crews. Last summer, it contributed lab analysis for the Coalition's extensive water quality monitoring program. In another effort to protect the Cocheco River's water quality, the department, in collaboration with the watershed coalition and the Allen School Parent Teacher Association, reconstructed the drainage from the school's playground using funds from the Office of State Planning's New Hampshire Estuaries Project and Community Development Block Grant Program.
The Coalition "is a group of people that are very concerned with the quality of life along the river," notes Rochester City Engineer Melodie Esterberg. She describes the DPW's collaboration with the group as "a way of letting people know that what they do is important. [That] shouldn't be unheard of - it should be what we do."
Anderson's "tinkering" involves him in numerous efforts to make fishing environmentally safer and to preserve it as a viable occupation. He is a member of a coalition investigating the effects of fishing gear on the marine environment, and was involved in securing a grant to purchase "pingers" - acoustical devices used by New Hampshire's gill net fishermen to warn harbor porpoises away from fishing nets.
Last year, Anderson, who is President of the state's Commercial Fishermen's Association, helped develop a plan to distribute federal disaster relief funds to fishermen affected by recent fishery closures in exchange for help with fishery research.
Anderson fits all of this into his own fishing schedule. "You find the time if you think it is the right thing to do," he says. Uncomfortable with being singled out for recognition, he adds, "I'm very honored to receive the award, but it should be understood that many other fishermen dedicate much of their time on the multitude of issues that exist within the industry."
Percy helps organize science workshops for the Bay of Fundy Ecosystem Partnership (BoFEP), maintains the group's Web site, and writes a series of fact sheets called Fundy Issues that interpret scientific information about the Bay.
An honorary research associate at Acadia University's Estuarine Research Center, Percy is also involved with the Clean Annapolis River Project and other grassroots organizations. "I think it's important that the communities be involved in the decision-making," says Percy. "We've seen in the past where there has been this sort of imposed decision-making from the outside and it doesn't really work because their heart is not really in it."
Salmon River Salmon Association
Melanson and a former student, Roland LeBlanc, Director of the Nova Scotia Salmon Association, launched the program with two incubators in the school's new technology lab in the autumn of 1996. Melanson and another teacher then developed an interactive computer education program on the salmon's life cycle for French-speaking schools. An English translation of the program should be available this year.
The community enthusiastically supports the program, providing much of its funding, and the students, Melanson says, "Love it. They're involved in the whole process. They get to learn about migration and adaptation, and they get to hatch the eggs in their own school. It should raise [their] consciousness of the salmon and how important it is to our environment."
Pointing out that town-owned and privately-owned lands lie within the National Seashore's boundaries, Burks says she seeks balance among social, political, and environmental components in developing responsible stewardship policies. Success, she believes, lies in incorporating public participation into management decisions. "It reduces public distrust, increases public buy-in, and probably assures a better decision."
Among the long-standing controversial issues Burks and community members have successfully addressed are salt marsh restoration in the Hatches Harbor area of Provincetown, the development of the Pleasant Bay Resource Management Plan, and use of over-sand vehicles - dune buggies - on the beaches.
Burks says discussions about controversial stewardship issues should not focus on changing someone's point of view, but on finding points of agreement. "If you can sit down and talk quietly with open hearts and open minds you can actually find that you have more in common than you think."
Gonsalves submitted an application to the US Environmental Protection Agency to designate the Bay as a "No Discharge Area" for boat sewage. "Every community has endorsed the concept," he notes. He is working with officials to improve methods for collecting waste oil from the New Bedford/Fairhaven fishing fleet.
Additionally, Gonsalves initiated state legislation requiring oil-free bilge tanks in recreational boats using the Bay, and helped to secure a grant from Massachusetts Coastal Zone Manage-ment to help boaters comply. Gonsalves believes people want to take care of the Bay, but don't always know how their actions can affect it.
With this in mind, Gonsalves is helping to expand a program about the Bay, based aboard the Ernestina, a state-owned former whaling ship, for elementary school students. "We begin with an awareness and we build on that so that by the time they're out of high school, they have an ingrained understanding of the environment."
The Nature Trust of New Brunswick
"On the Gulf of Maine, we have a general concern that land is being bought up for development," Davies says, adding that the Trust focuses on protecting salt marshes and estuaries as critical components of the Gulf's ecosystem. "The Bay of Fundy has lost 85 percent of our salt marshes since 1670," she notes.
Protecting seabird habitat is another priority. The Trust's Robert K. Stewart Preserve protects four important seabird nesting islands.
Asked why people sell or donate their land to trusts, Davies responds, "I think it's a combination of an emotional response to the land and an intellectual response." People may appreciate the ecological value of their land, but ultimately, she says, they want their special place to "continue on as they've known it."
As a consultant, he surveyed most of the Bay and developed some of the first successful aquaculture operations in the region. MacKay has also written and illustrated numerous publications, and he designs and maintains several Web sites including www.fundynet.com. As Manager of Education Programs for the Atlantic Salmon Federation, based in Chamcook, New Brunswick, he oversees Atlantic salmon conservation programs for school children throughout the Atlantic provinces and New England.
MacKay works to synthesize a lifetime of experience into helping others understand the Bay, which he hopes will encourage them to protect it. "In 1964 there was very little industry in the Bay of Fundy. Progressively over the intervening 30 years, the pressures on the Bay have grown at a very steady rate and the upshot is that it has changed measurably. The whole Bay is taking a really rough hit," he says.
While acknowledging that he played a role in establishing aquaculture in the region, MacKay says that today, the industry's overzealous expansion is another threat to the Bay. "The problem is everyone wants to ram a million fish into a cove that probably shouldn't have more than 100,000."
The Kennebec Coalition
The Coalition, which includes the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Trout Unlimited's Kennebec Valley Chapter, American Rivers, and the Atlantic Salmon Federation, persuaded the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that the environmental benefits of removing the dam would far exceed the dam's economic value.
While the Kennebec Coalition is thrilled to note signs of the river's recovery, Coordinator Laura Rose Day says the group's work is far from finished. "Although the dam came out in one fell swoop, the recovery is a process. There's still a lot of work to be done and a lot of partnerships that will be really key to helping the river restore itself. We also want to promote a scientific assessment of the river's recovery after the dam."
Since then, Stockwell has dedicated himself to implementing and developing Maine's cooperative, stewardship-based approach to the lobster fishery in which fishermen and state government officials share management responsibilities.
Stockwell serves as liaison between DMR and Maine's seven lobster management zones. "Someone equated me to a tugboat," he says. "I help when they ask, provide information, provide services, push and prod, but the groups are all developing into pretty self-sufficient energized political units."
Noting that he also helps lobster fishermen keep up with other issues and regulations, Stockwell explains, "I'm trying to demystify fisheries management to the guys that are too busy to deal with it. [Fishing] is not a way of life any more. It's become a business and a lot of the guys are having a hard time with it."