Frenchman Bay Conservancy looking for national reaccreditation

HANCOCK — Maine is one of the most privately owned states in the country. In fact, at 6.5 percent, Maine has the lowest percentage of publicly owned land of any state east of the Appalachian Mountains.

Much of the land used for recreation — more than 1,250 miles of hiking trails, 570 miles of snowmobile trails, 2.1 million acres of working forestlands and 200 beaches — is under the domain of private land trusts.

One of those land trusts is the Frenchman Bay Conservancy, currently applying for reaccreditation from the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.

“The accreditation process recognized land conservation programs that meet a national standard,” said Aaron Dority, executive director of the Frenchman Bay Conservancy. “We were first accredited in December of 2013, and we saw it as a great opportunity to hold ourselves accountable by focusing on a national standard of governance and land acquisition, how organizations operate ethically and legally.”

Frenchman Bay Conservancy, founded in 1987, maintains almost 30 miles of hiking trails and nearly 7,000 acres of land from Ellsworth to Gouldsboro. Like all land trusts, it is a nonprofit 501(c)(3).

The Conservancy also holds responsibility over 26 conservation easements, privately owned land that the Conservancy takes responsibility for monitoring and conservation of.

“Our priorities for conservation geographically are the Union River watershed and east through the Frenchman Bay watershed to the Schoodic Peninsula,” Dority said. “We look at ecologically valuable properties and take into consideration what state agencies have identified as areas that are particularly valuable for conservation.”

The accreditation process, which must be renewed every five years, is managed by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

“There are four main criteria; board governance, finances, how they manage land transactions, and how they steward those lands,” said Commission Executive Director Tammara Van Ryn. “Stewardship being the most important. How well do they manage those conservation easements, how well they can defend the land they are responsible for.”

The accreditation process can take up to a year. Once complete, accredited land trusts have increased access to donations, grants and federal agencies.

“All organizations get a letter when they are accredited that describes any areas of ongoing concern or work, and in 2013 we only had one item on that list, which we took as a sign that we were on the right track to follow standards and practices,” Dority said. “And we’re excited to continue our work of protecting wildlife habitat and protecting clean drinking water.”

Maxwell Hauptman

Maxwell Hauptman

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Maxwell Hauptman joined The Ellsworth American as a reporter in 2018. He can be reached at [email protected]
Maxwell Hauptman

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