Land Trusts, River Group Join Forces to Preserve Presumpscot Watershed

On October 2, 2016, after nearly a year of discussion, members of the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust, Windham Land Trust, and Presumpscot River Watch voted to merge as one organization with the name Presumpscot Regional Land Trust. The vote took place during an event at Randall Orchards in Standish.

The new mission is to support healthy lands, waters, wildlife, and people across the Presumpscot River watershed through conservation, water quality monitoring, education, and public access.

Presumpscot Regional Land Trust was founded in 1986 and has conserved land in Gorham, Gray, Sebago, Standish, Windham and Westbrook. Windham Land Trust was founded in 2000 and has conserved lands in Gorham, Gray, and Windham. The two organizations share much of the same coverage area, along with many members and values–making the two organizations a natural fit.

Priscilla Payne, Board Co-President of the Windham Land Trust, said, “I am excited about the merger with Presumpscot Regional Land Trust and Presumpscot River Watch. Working together, we will be able to have a greater impact on land conservation in the area, have more volunteers to be better able to steward all of our properties, and to continue to monitor the water quality of our streams and rivers. I see this as a merger of equals and members of all three organizations are serving in leadership roles. I think this is an excellent step going forward for all.”

Founded in 1989, Presumpscot River Watch uses volunteers to sample and test water quality at points on the Presumpscot River and its tributaries. With a shared commitment between the two land trusts of ensuring water quality, the inclusion of Presumpscot River Watch in the merger will help strengthen these important initiatives.

Fred Dillon, President of Presumpscot River Watch, said, “The Presumpscot River Watch has been using citizen scientists to monitor water quality in the main stem of the river and its many tributaries since 1989. Our monitoring results are used by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to determine compliance with state water quality standards. This merger represents an exciting and important evolution in enhancing our mission to protect and preserve the watershed for future generations.”

This past winter, board leadership discussed the possibility of merging organizations. After learning from the merger experiences of other Maine land trusts, the boards formed a merger committee with board members from all three organizations. Thanks to primary grant funding by Maine Coast Heritage Trust and Maine Community Foundation, and extensive pro bono legal services from Pierce Atwood and Douglas, McDaniel, Campo and Schools, the three organizations were able to fully review each other’s lands and financial reports, as well as create a merger agreement and new bylaws.

“We want to thank Maine Coast Heritage Trust for providing a grant from their merger fund,” offers Rachelle Curran Apse, who will continue in the role of executive director of Presumpscot Regional Land Trust. “Merging in less than one year would not have been possible without this grant.”

Presumpscot Regional Land Trust is committed to continuing the mission-based work of all three organizations. The unified organization has 25 conserved lands equaling about 1,400 acres–including 10 public access preserves with miles of trails and fishing access in the towns of Gorham, Gray, Sebago, Standish, Westbrook and Windham. The new organization will continue to coordinate the 28-mile Sebago to the Sea Trail project, and monitor water quality at 20 sites along the Presumpscot River and its tributaries.

The Presumpscot Regional Land Trust’s Board of Directors will be composed of current board members from all three organizations. This merger and unification will help make the three organizations stronger and more sustainable ensuring not only the stewardship of conserved lands in perpetuity but also increased priority towards new conservation land and water quality in the Presumpscot River region.

Recent mergers among land trusts in Maine have created stronger regional land trusts that have the capacity to address increasing stewardship needs. Some examples include: Midcoast Conservancy, Royal River Conservation Trust, Downeast Coastal Conservancy, and Blue Hill Heritage Trust.

A story on the merger ran in the Portland Press Herald. Read that story here.