This year's annual meeting brought us sunny skies and a stellar turnout. While enjoying the live music, a glass of wine in hand, there was plenty of time to meet new people, and catch up with old friends.
Three different experts spoke at VLT’s annual meeting this year about the importance of groundwater—to our preserves, our community, and to our world in general. Geologist George Kendrick, Josh Bowe, natural resource manager at Poland Spring Water Bottling, and Maine Water Company president Rick Knowlton covered a wide range of groundwater issues, and left those in attendance with a much clearer understanding of the nature and importance of groundwater.
As precipitation falls over the land, most of it—something like 50%—will run off and quickly find its way to the ocean. Another good percentage, on the order of 30-35%, will either evaporate or pass through plants and return to the atmosphere through transpiration. The last precious 10-15% will seep into the ground, staying with us in places like lakes and ponds, water-bearing soil strata (the richest of which we call aquifers), or in the assorted cracks and fissures that are found throughout the bedrock beneath us.
Geologist George Kendrick emphasized that, unlike most of the communities in the state of Maine, Vinalhaven lacks any significant aquifers. Most of the groundwater storage here relies on cracks in the granite bedrock, although a fair amount is also held in the peat-rich freshwater wetlands that have formed since the last glaciation. As George put it, this island holds “a tiny lens of fresh water, surrounded by an ocean of salt water.” This freshwater resource must provide the water that all the plants, animals, and people here need, and it is vulnerable—to pollution, to extended drought, to over-extraction, and perhaps most ominously, to salt-water intrusion as the sea level rises. George’s remarks helped the audience understand the need to monitor and safeguard this resource, and the ways in which a land trust could take a strong supporting role in doing this.
Josh Bowe pointed out that a hydrologically isolated community like Vinalhaven is especially dependent on seasonal precipitation. Extended dry spells, such as we experienced here in 2016 and 2017, leave an immediate and visible impact on the forest. For example, when you approach Vinalhaven from Rockland, take a look at Lairey’s Island on the right as you enter The Reach—mature white spruces growing here have experienced significant death and dieback owing to droughts in recent years. Moreover, he pointed out that as climate change leads to increasing intensity of precipitation, an ever-higher percentage will be subject to runoff, since the land cannot absorb rainfall that comes too hard and fast. During the wetter times, like this past spring and early summer, people’s efforts to conserve water can diminish. However, the more water you save now, the better off the groundwater supply will be when you encounter the next drought.
Josh also noted that ground water does not respect property lines, and said, “Your own water use might affect your neighbors.” If you think of groundwater as a common milkshake in which we each have a straw, we must indeed pay close attention to how much of this shared resource we are consuming! Toward this end, Josh said that one of the best things we can do is to work with landowners who will allow their wells to be monitored, in order to gather and analyze data on trends in water levels and usage.
The last speaker was Rick Knowlton, who shared anecdotes about the history and development of a public water supply on Vinalhaven, referring back to T.D. Libby establishing a town water utility way back in 1910, and invoking names such as Ducky Haskell and Bud Crossman who worked some twenty years ago to bring in the Maine Water Company to handle treatment, distribution, and billing here. Rick pointed out that currently, the area served by the public water supply relies on Round and Folly Ponds for about twenty million gallons of water each year, and underscored what precious assets these water bodies are for such a small island to possess. The ponds are at the center of a roughly 400-acre watershed, of which the water company owns only about 140 acres. Not surprisingly, they welcome any conservation protection being applied to the rest of the watershed, and are staunch supporters of the work of local land trusts in this regard. He also mentioned our local water commissioners—Pam Alley, Al Koenig, and Patrick Trainor—and urged the audience to meet with them and share our thoughts about Vinalhaven’s water resources. He closed with the thought that local landowners giving the water company permission to conduct well studies in the years to come would be a great step forward in the collective work of monitoring and safeguarding the town’s water.
All three speakers’ remarks were eagerly received by the crowd, and long after the “official” end of the Q&A portion of the talk, our speakers were being buttonholed by a gauntlet of folks with water on their mind—a sure sign of a successful presentation! Our sincerest thanks to Elizabeth Swain, who took on the task of lining up these speakers and arranged the logistics of getting them here as one of her last tasks in a long career of serving as a VLT trustee.
— Kerry Hardy
Thank you to all who participated in making our 33rd Annual Meeting a success. The weather was lovely, the company wonderful, and the food and refreshments a complete treat.
This year, VLT steward Kerry Hardy was our speaker. Ask Kerry Hardy what he “does for work,” and you’re liable to get a very long explanation that involves a lot of different disciplines—writing, art, history, ecology, linguistics, and of course making maps and clearing trails for Vinalhaven Land Trust. You might also get an earful about his other ventures, like working with Maine’s Indian tribes or with other historians across the Northeast; or testifying in Augusta at public hearings on environmental issues. In short, almost anything that involves land and the creatures that live on it, including people, is of interest to him—and sharing those interests and insights with others is the essence of his work.
Stone tools like this adze, used for making dugout boats thousands of years ago along Maine's coast.
At the meeting, Vinalhaven native, fisherman, and historical fisheries ecologist Ted Ames teamed up with Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries' Executive Director, Robin Alden, to discuss Penobscot Bay’s past fisheries, current alewife recovery efforts, and the hopeful resiliency of fishing communities like Vinalhaven in the face of climate change. These award-winning fishery researchers delivered inspiring remarks on the resiliency of coastal communities.
Their slideshow presentations are available here
Island students and teachers spoke about the environmental education programs being offered at the Vinalhaven School.
Hiking Mount Katahdin, Hurricane Island programs and field trips, Tanglewood led hikes, are some of the programs being offered.
Dr. Mark Anderson, from the Eastern Division of The Nature Conservancy, presented a talk and slide show. He spoke about the importance of resilient landscapes in the face of climate change. He shared maps of the eastern seaboard, and of Vinalhaven and North Haven, showing areas of interconnectedness, which is a hallmark of resilient landscapes.
Peter Forbes, from The Center for Whole Communities in Fayston, Vermont, presented a talk and slide show. He spoke about the human connection to land and place, and challenged us to think about how we can move beyond traditional conservation to strengthen that connection for our community.
Jay Espy's talk covered ground, discussing land conservation history, at the local and national scale. Espy shared how perceptions of land conservation change, and how it may well be viewed and of value in the future.
Kevin Case, Northeast Regional Director, Land Trust Alliance, gave an engaging talk titled, The Emerging Face of Land Protection, Why Accreditation is Important.
Vinalhaven Land Trust is pleased to welcome Don Perkins, President of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute to speak at our annual meeting on July 31st, at Skoog Park. Following the business meeting, Don will offer a thought-provoking presentation about Maine’s changing relationship with the ocean, and will discuss “Emergence of the 21st Century Working Waterfront: Sustainable Fish and Ocean Energy for a Hungry World”.
“The Gulf of Maine is a truly unique competitive asset.” says Perkins. “It’s one of only a handful of places in all the world’s oceans where sustainable strategies can be realized to meet the growing global demand for fresh fish. At the same time, the region is successfully merging maritime tradition with technology innovation to create new opportunities to harness the ocean’s power and productivity.
Perkins will talk about efforts to crystallize a regional identity for Gulf of Maine seafood products that shifts the emphasis away from commodity extraction of a limited resource and toward delivery of a premium quality, sustainably harvested product into higher-value markets. He will share insights on the extraordinary wind resource that exists in the Gulf of Maine and its potential to fundamentally change how Maine communities produce and consume energy in the 21st century. Perkins will also touch on Maine’s opportunity to emerge as one the nation’s most science literate states and how this will benefit emerging maritime industries.
Located in Portland, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute is a non-profit marine science center with a vision to realize the Gulf of Maine bioregion’s potential as a healthy ocean ecosystem, vibrant marine community, and wellspring of innovation. Two important qualities distinguish the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. The first is a unique blend of science, education, and community activities. The second is a commitment to building collaborative partnerships to catalyze solutions to the complex challenges of ocean stewardship and economic growth in the Gulf of Maine bioregion.
Perkins has been President of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute since 1995 and is active in the marine policy arena on multiple levels. He chairs the Governor’s Task Force on Ocean Energy and currently serves on the board of the Maine Marine Research Coalition and Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation. Prior to joining the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Perkins instructed at the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, directed the Marine Conservation Corps in California, served as a financial advisor to Native American tribes, and managed the operations of Binax, Inc.