Penobscot Watershed Conference a Huge Success!

April 13, 2016 IIT IIT News Update

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More than 300 people listened to and engaged with over 70 workshop presenters at the Penobscot Watershed Conference held in Northport, Maine on Saturday, April 9. Islesboro Islands Trust chaired the steering committee, comprised of representatives from 15 organizations having concentrated interest in the region that organized this historic event. This broad collaborative planning approach resulted in satisfyingly diverse and profound presentations.

IIT Life Trustee and Chairman of the Islesboro Board of Selectmen Arch Gillies said, “[The conference] was a very comprehensive analysis. For me the biggest impact is understanding the enormous size of the Penobscot Watershed and how much it affects so many, many people. That should tell us that those constituents and their allies can have a very powerful voice in protecting and shaping the future of this region.”

IIT President Chuck Verrill recounted, “One thing that impressed me was the atmosphere of engagement. People really showed that they care about the Bay and the problems facing us. I really liked the lobsterman who talked about ocean acidification. He knew the issues, was very articulate and passionate. His talk was as insightful and compelling as any of the scientists and in a true Maine way more persuasive.”

Several speakers at the conference are part of a research team led by Professor Emeritus James Wilson and generously funded by Bob McNeil and IIT. Bob said of the event, “Impressive Penobscot Watershed Conference Saturday. Oversold! Looks like the momentum builds for the next step.”

IIT stewardship and education specialist Chloe Joule said, “True to its’ name, this conference was representative of the entire Watershed – from Baxter State Park right down to the Bay. I think that this is perhaps what I enjoyed most. This was not a group purely made up of like-minded environmentalists and conservationists. It also didn’t focus solely on the “water” aspect of the watershed. In the three workshops that I attended (a small sampling of the eighteen various workshops offered), the panelists were diverse and well informed. I appreciated that they did not always agree and there were healthy discussions and debates, allowing for someone like myself, coming from the conservationist point-of-view to hear contrasting points. Every presenter and participant was enthusiastic and excited to be there – an energy that was certainly infectious!”

Maine State Representative Chuck Kruger revealed, “I am very glad I attended the conference. I was amazed at the attendance. I would have guessed 40-60 people would be there. The hundreds show that your work to date has been on target and well done. The variety and content was excellent.

“My high point I guess was learning of all the existing data about mercury levels in the River; it was also the low point, in that the Army Corps and dredge applicant — along with business and legislative leaders — are so easily ignoring it.”

Arlee Morris, IIT administrative assistant, reported, “I was blown away by the enthusiasm of the presenters and the conference attendees – every workshop I went to was incredible! I loved hearing Catherine Schmitt’s salmon expertise and the Wabanaki history from James Francis in the first workshop; I was at the edge of my seat for the New and Traditional Food Supplies panel – very cool that Waldo County is thriving with young farmers, and especially young women farmers! And the last panel about the Penobscot Indian Nation Issues – Indigenous Rights Attorney Sherri Mitchell almost had the crowd in tears talking about how painful and frustrating the Penobscot Indian Nation v. State of Maine lawsuit is to her and her history.”

The conference was sponsored by the fifteen steering committee organizations as well as Bangor Savings Bank, GBL Charitable Foundation, Hamlin’s Marina, Islesboro Marine Enterprises, NOAA Fisheries, Penobscot Indian Nation Enterprises, Pendleton Yacht Yard, Raymond James Financial, Front Street Shipyard, Charles Verrill Financial Consultant, Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors Magazine, Wooden Boat Publications and Sam Mitchell.

The fifteen organizations that collaborated on conference planning included Islesboro Islands Trust, Penobscot Nation, Maine Sea Grant, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Penobscot East Resource Center, Friends of Sears Island, Penobscot Marine Museum, Lower Penobscot Watershed Coalition, Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition, Island Institute, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Sierra Club Maine, Maine Lakes Society, The Nature Conservancy, and Maine Coast Heritage Trust.

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