Volume 8, No. 1
Promoting Cooperation to Maintain and Enhance
Environmental Quality in the Gulf of Maine
Spring 2004
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Visionary Award winners: Letting their lives speak


Winter 2003

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The Gulf of Maine Times

Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment

Editor’s Notes

The actions of stewards tell a powerful, and hopeful, story

By Andi Rierden, Editor

“Let your life speak,” goes the Quaker saying. Those words kept coming back to me while writing the profiles for this edition’s focus on stewardship. They certainly apply to Longard Award recipient, Elsa Martz, who was raised in the Quaker tradition and has indeed lived a life of action and reflection. From her days working with the Clamshell Alliance, the 1970s anti-nuclear power organization, to freeing a river in Maine, she illustrates how a sense of responsibility and commitment can raise awareness to create healthy relations with the natural world. The same can be said of the other stewards profiled on pages six and seven [Visionary Awards]. They are votaries of a particular place, a particular environment, we call the Gulf of Maine.

The Atlantic Coastal Zone Information Steering Committee won a Visionary Award, in part, for keeping us connected to coastal issues throughout Atlantic Canada, New England and beyond.
Photo: Geoff Lewis
Time and again I’m reminded that despite the vastness of the Gulf, there exists a close network of people from Nova Scotia to Massachusetts that have come to its rescue. Elsa Martz called Bill Hubbard her lifeline at Coastal America, the person who helped her cut through piles of red tape to remove the Dingley Island causeway. At present, Hubbard and his team of experts at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other government agencies are engaged in 65 restoration projects in the Gulf. “It’s all about bringing back the fish,” he told me. “If you get a group of community people who are enthused about a restoration, you want to give them hope that the entire ecological function of the Northeast isn’t going to fail. There is definitely something they can do. As someone once said, when you say the word ‘restoration’ it means hope.”

Tom Squiers has been focused on bringing back the fish for more than 30 years. Soft-spoken, diligent and determined, Squiers’ research and restoration work to benefit fish habitat in Maine rivers is a reminder of how we can’t afford to lose any species, they are a crucible of our future.

Rita Almon of the Big River Salmon Angling Association in New Brunswick knows a thing or two about saving fish. The association’s kitchen-style, community fund-raisers have brought in more than $250,000 (CND) for research into the fate of Atlantic salmon and reintroduced thousands of juvenile salmon into the river. Recently the association discovered that a logging company had clearcut a large portion of land along the main pools of the Big Salmon River, “I nearly cried,” Rita said. “But let me tell you, we will never, ever give up trying to save this precious species.”

Speaking of lifelines, Claudette LeBlanc and Micheal Butler and others with the Atlantic Coastal Zone Infor- mation Steering Committee have made it much easier for people in the Gulf of Maine to connect to sources aimed at understanding coastal issues. The group is doing an invaluable service in emphasizing how important healthy coastal systems are to a community’s economy.

James Ricker and other staff for the Town of Newport, Maine saw the potential for boosting their town’s economic vitality by forging ahead with the Guilford Dam removal, fish passageways and restoration projects along the Sebasticook River. Their work has made the Town of Newport a model for the Gulf of Maine region.

When Kenneth Mann was a young researcher at the University of Reading in England, his colleagues made light of his views of the ocean and atmosphere as a joined system, influencing biological phenomena and world climate. “They were brilliant people but couldn’t grasp the idea of an ecosystem,” Mann told me. “It drove me into the arms of Canada, where the people at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography looked at this as ground-breaking stuff and have supported me ever since.”

In addition to leading kayaking tours in New Brunswick, I learned that Bruce Smith is a keen supporter of local conservation programs. He also carries his message about environmental education and sustainable tourism each year throughout North and Central America.

Ann Schulz, Liz Evans and other members of the Islinglass River Protection Project sensed the train of sprawl coming to the small towns in Strafford County, New Hampshire and galloped forth to safeguard the river “before it was too late.” With great foresight, these individuals stood up to businesses and large stakeholders with major water interests and convinced them that protecting the Islinglass benefits the entire Cocheco watershed.

Protecting water resources was one of the main reasons Danna Truslow spearheaded the Geographic Information System mapping projects for the Seacoast Land Trust in Rye, New Hampshire. The maps are allowing the trust to identify target areas most suitable for conservation, and will also aid policy-makers in determining how development (and the paved streets, parking lots and sideways that accompany it) is affecting water flow and availability.

Mary Toomey, who turns 85 this year, could write a book about her decades-long ordeal in saving the lands surrounding Weymouth Back River in Massachusetts. She told me she finally had to give up teaching in the early 1980s because her work fighting trash to energy plant proposals, developers, toxic waste and so on, just became too big of a job. “And believe you me,” she added, “it’s not over.” I recently received a card from her promising that she would write her story “It really should be done to help others,” she wrote. She asked me to add the following: “I was so overwhelmed at the beginning by the enormity of the job I had undertaken that I placed it in God’s hands, and there is no question that help did come.”

Toomey’s work, along with the other stewards profiled in this issue, tell a powerful story about the Gulf of Maine. They help us look beyond the debates over coastal management and conservation to see a region where, regardless of philosophies, people care about their communities and about the coastal environment that supports and sustains them.