March 19, 2019  
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Opinion: Women rock in Maine conservation
Opinion: Women rock in Maine conservation
For a few years, I have intended to pen a piece about how women are providing leadership on conservation fronts in Maine. I have not had time, but on International Women’s Day, here is a quick and quiet shout out to all the women showing us the way.

Many of the conservation organizations in Maine are led by women executive directors. For instance, Lisa Pohlmann at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Karin Tilberg at the Forest Society of Maine, Maureen Drouin at Maine Conservation Voters and Maine Conservation Alliance, Kate Dempsey at The Nature Conservancy, Landis Hudson at Maine Rivers, Cathy Ramsdell and Ivy Frignoca at Friends of Casco Bay, and Kaitlyn Bernard at Appalachian Mountain Club. Indeed, a large percentage of the professionals staffing those groups and leading their boards of directors are also women.

Barbara Bentley transformed Friends of Baxter State Park from a fledgling group of volunteers into a well-organized advocate for Maine’s greatest wilderness park. Beth Ahearn and Cathy Johnson are two of the most effective lobbyists for the environment. Sandy Neily has been reminding us for decades that in Maine the environment is the economy. Naomi Schalit took Maine Rivers to a new level. Sheila Bennett taught me to cherish the wildness of the Allagash. Bridget Besaw helped me see the Maine landscape in new ways through a camera lens. Nancy Oden has been reminding us to shun toxic scams. Sherry Huber has been a persistent voice for generations for preserving woodlands, both working and wild. And Heather Spalding is an indefatigable source of energy at the Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association.

In addition, women are leading and staffing dozens of the more than 75 land trusts in Maine. Angela Twitchell at Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, Theresa Kerchner at Kennebec Land Trust, Carrie Kinne at Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, and Katrina Van Dusen at Freeport Conservation Trust are a few of the remarkable women with whom I have had the opportunity to work.

One of the greatest conservation success stories in Maine in recent years, Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument, was the initiative of Roxanne Quimby. I had the privilege of working with her for several years as she acquired lands for restoration and permanent protection. As her fans like to say, Roxanne rocks. She fits perfectly into a legacy of women conservation leaders in America, including Rachel Carson, Mardy Murie, Celia Hunter, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Rosalie Edge, and Terry Tempest Williams. Maine’s best environmental journalist was a woman. Phyllis Austin was Roxanne’s biographer as well as a dear friend to me.

Half of Maine’s congressional delegation is comprised of women. In state government, Maine’s Attorney General and House Speaker are women with a sincere environmental commitment. Thirty-four percent of the seats in the Maine Legislature are held by women, an all-time high. Nationally the average is 25 percent. In response to a virulently anti-woman presidential administration and majority party in Congress, this year may see even more women run for office. Tens of thousands across the country have contacted Emily’s List about running.

There are scores of other women who are also pioneering progress on conservation and environmental issues in Maine.

Having women in charge does not guarantee progress or peace. Maggie Thatcher (known as the Iron Lady for her uncompromising, often belligerent, politics), Phyllis Schlafly (who blocked ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment), Marion Hammer and Dana Loesch (shills for the NRA’s warped vision for America), Betsy DeVos (who is destroying our public schools), Rebekah Mercer (aka First Lady of the Alt-Right for channeling megabucks to climate change deniers and other hardcore reactionary causes), and Mary Mayhew (who terminated or blocked thousands of Mainers from getting basic health insurance and who wants to be governor) are a few examples of women leading where I have no interest in going. And I do not always agree with my women colleagues.

But, more often than not, having women in charge greatly increases the odds of getting us back on a positive, progressive, peaceful track. Men have created impressive ideas and things and protected important places, but we have also messed up big time. It will not be easy to overcome the testosterone that tyrannizes, the power that prevails, and the insecurity that lurks. However, if there is reason for optimism about the chance to heal our world and my state and to continue to advance nature restoration and conservation, many of the leaders will be wise women. Thank goodness.

~ Jym St. Pierre, Brunswick, Maine

Posted on Thursday, March 8, 2018 (Archive on Thursday, March 29, 2018)
Posted by Jym St. Pierre   Contributed by Jym St. Pierre

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