They have been called the environmental conscience of the town – your town’s conservation commission – organized to protect and improve a town’s water, beaches and land; advise select boards and city councilors about environmental issues facing the town, and educate the public about environmental issues important to a town’s health and well being.
Many conservation commissions look for land to acquire, put into conservation easement, and then find ways for their town to use the land. This might mean building trails for hiking or for off road biking and four wheel and snowmobile use.
We have a parcel of land in our town acquired a few years ago by the local land trust. One of the trail’s entrances is by our town dog park, so once trails were established in this 30-40 acre woods, hikers and dog owners used the trails frequently. Experts from the land trust lead tree identification walks and other similar hikes.
Our town bought land adjacent to the land trust parcel with money that had been set aside for years by our voters in a land reserve account. Old woods roads join the current paths and these will be cleared and the two old roads that fork will be joined by a trail built by the conservation commission and other volunteers.
Conservation commissions also work to clean up town streams and rivers; our town used state and federal grants for a local environmental company to extensively test our streams and river to find the sources of pollution then suggest remedies. So called, ‘hot spots’ have been located and solutions begun.
Conservation commissions also can initiate ordinances. For example our commission wrote and eventually passed an ordinance forbidding the use of chemical and synthetic pesticides on both town and public land. This ordinance passed and became the landmark ordinance for other Maine towns to follow.
What can conservation commissions do to encourage and educate others to follow sound conservation practices? Let’s look at this next time.