FOR FRIDAY AM POST Conservationists Gather in Maine to Discuss Future of Northeast Mountains

By Sarnacki, Aislinn | Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), November 12, 2015 | Go to article overview

FOR FRIDAY AM POST Conservationists Gather in Maine to Discuss Future of Northeast Mountains


Sarnacki, Aislinn, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)


Big names in wilderness conservation, outdoor recreation and alpine research from around the Northeast traveled to Millinocket last weekend for the ninth Northeast Alpine Stewardship Gathering to tackle some of the biggest issues facing mountains.

This year's gathering, held Nov. 6-8 at the outskirts of Baxter State Park, is the farthest north it has ever been held. Yet outdoor professionals came from as far away as the Adirondack Mountains to attend the event, which included panel discussions, presentations and field trips showcasing the Katahdin area.

"The gathering is a place for everyone who works with alpine preservation or protection or education to come together and be able to share their tools and techniques," said Jean Hoekwater, naturalist at Baxter State Park and a lead organizer of the event.

"And I guess I'd have to say it's also for inspiration," she added, "to infuse us all with energy for the work ahead."

Baxter State Park co-hosted the event at the New England Outdoor Center Twin Pine Cabins and River Drivers Restaurant in Millinocket with the nonprofit Friends of Baxter State Park and the Waterman Fund.

The biennial gathering was founded by the late Guy Waterman and his wife, Laura Waterman, co-authors of the 1993 book "Wilderness Ethics: Preserving the Spirit of Wildness," an important text among alpine stewards.

"[The spirit of wildness] can't be taught in the classroom," Waterman said Saturday, speaking before attendees gathered on the shore of Millinocket Lake. "You have to get out there in it."

Since Guy Waterman's death in 2000, Laura Waterman has continued to attend and speak at the gatherings, sharing her perspective on the conservation of wild places.

The programming for the annual event is created through a group effort with many organizations, agencies and professionals contributing.

"It requires so many people that by the time the gathering happens, almost everyone who's attending has a part in it," Hoekwater said. "They either planned it, or they're presenting on a panel, or they're moderating, or their dealing with field trip logistics. It takes a village. It requires you to work together just to pull it off, and then people really enjoy it because they all have a part."

Because of the venue being so far north, event organizers expected to have no more than 70 attendees. To their surprise, they had to cap off registration at 90 people.

"It was really nice to have that kind of support," Hoekwater said, "to have these people come to this area and understand a little bit about what we represent, but also be able to share and find common ties with each other."

Attendees included representatives from the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, Green Mountain Club of Vermont and Adirondack Mountain Club of New York, as well as many Maine-based organizations and agencies such as the Forest Society of Maine, Maine Woods Forever, Maine Natural Areas Program, Acadia National Park and Elliotsville Plantation Inc., which sponsored the event with NOEC Twin Pine Cabins.

A common issue for alpine stewards from throughout the Northeast is an increase in people visiting the mountains, crowding trails and campsites, especially on the more famous mountains -- such as Katahdin.

Baxter State Park Director Jensen Bissell talked about this issue in relation to Baxter State Park. About 70,000 people visit the park each year, he told the audience on Saturday.

"Of those 70,000 people, probably half of those have on their mind as the highlight of their day trip, or as the highlight of their camping trip in the park, a summit of Katahdin. They'd like to get to Baxter Peak," Bissell said. …

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