LandScope Maine Team

With only a few days left before leaving for Colorado to attend both the NatureServe and Land Trust Alliance conferences, I have been juggling a variety of tasks all of which provide reminders of how important and yet difficult the task of messaging the importance of biodiversity is.  Like me, you’ve probably noticed a declining awareness of, and resulting appreciation for, species diversity by the general public.

It’s a challenge for me every day. Two nights ago I gave a Beginning with Habitat presentation to a small, population 854, Maine town to stress the importance of proactive planning to maintain habitat functions.  Comments following the talk included the all too common arguments to maintain status quo:  “Maine is already 90% forested”, “zoning is too expensive”, “let the big towns do it first”, “we can’t take folks’ rights away”, etc.  Last night at a Maine Butterfly Atlas Project presentation, in arguably one of Maine’s more progressive towns, a well-meaning citizen asked “what’s the value of butterflies anyway?”  The speaker fielded the question very well, but the interaction again brought to the forefront our seemingly inevitable need to justify any conservation efforts in dollars and cents utilitarian terms.  p>

Yesterday, the Beginning with Habitat steering committee held its bimonthly meeting and again messaging was at the heart of our discussions.  Top on the agenda was a discussion of Beginning with Habitat’s role in heading up Maine’s LandScope pilot efforts and how it can help us more readily disseminate habitat data and supporting information.  Soon the discussion re-visited old, yet unresolved, territory of: “how do we get more towns to implement habitat friendly planning tools?”  As scientists and agency professionals we are often so steeped in our craft that we struggle to successfully inspire the general public to change their habits and see the value in caring about veeries, cobweb skippers, and yellow lamp mussels.   

I am hopeful that through this national partnership, a collaboration of the best minds in the business, that LandScope America will successfully reach beyond the Subaru driving land trust set and motivate the average Maine web-user to shut their computers down, go outside, and reconnect with nature.

- Steve Walker

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