Learning to Do Better: Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion and Maine Land Trusts

Voluntary land conservation requires building relationships to people and to lands, and land trusts are good at that work. Land trusts are also constantly striving to do and be better, which in recent decades has included a focus on connecting more people to the land. Now we realize that for conservation to have the impact we all need, we must make changes to our organizations’ practices and structures.

In June of 2020, Maine Land Trust Network (MLTN) leadership issued a statement in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other (at the time) recent violence perpetrated against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in our country. Many MLTN organizations signed on to that letter. We all knew, though, that those words needed to be followed by actions.       

MLTN exists to support and strengthen Maine land trusts with resources, training, and opportunities for peer-to-peer exchange, so we embarked on an effort to do what we could to support land trusts in addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion at their organizations. You can read the letter our work group sent to Maine land trusts in February 2021 here

“Through our process, I became more aware of how some of our traditional meeting processes and group dynamics impact newcomers and those with different backgrounds.”

The work of our diversity, equity, and inclusion group will culminate with a series of zoom meetings and information posts; we’re calling these “episodes.” Our goal is for the meetings to be conversational – while the work group has gleaned important insights that we want to share with Maine land trusts, we are far from experts. As we all strive to uncover inequities in our sector and search for solutions, our experiences can bring us closer to each other as we share our ideas, our worries, our progress, and our frustrations.

The information that our work group has to share is provided via posts, listed below as Episodes 1, 2, and 3. Episode 3 includes a recorded conversation with Matt Prindiville of Upstream, a public-benefit nonprofit that helps businesses and communities shift from single-use to reuse. Matt and Upstream operate right here in Maine and they have been dedicated to shifting their work culture and practice as they travel their personal and professional journey toward anti-racism.

We hope the posts are useful, and if they pop up questions, ideas, confusion, that’s okay! Please reach out to MLTN and share your thoughts. We will do our best to connect you with people and resources that will further your journey.

“I’ve learned to define progress differently. Good things take time!  While my temptation is to rush in and get it done, for some things you need to slow it down.”

Thank you, and we hope you’ll keep in touch.  

  • Amy Titcomb – Three Rivers Land Trust
  • Ciona Ulbrich – Maine Coast Heritage Trust
  • Donna Bissett – Maine Coast Heritage Trust
  • Doreen MacGillis – York Land Trust
  • Emily Greene – Saco Watershed Collaborative & Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve
  • Hadley Couraud – Loon Echo Land Trust, Western Foothills Land Trust, Sebago Clean Waters
  • Jess Burton – Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative
  • Nina Young – Maine Farmland Trust
  • Stefan J. Jackson – NATURAL DIFFERENCE, LLC
  • Warren Whitney – Maine Coast Heritage Trust
  • Deborah E. Bicknell Consulting Services LLC – Facilitator

It is important that we recognize all of the contributors to this work. Red Fong was an integral part of this working group for the first four months of the process. Red is the Relearning Place Program Manager with Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative and the Operations Director with the Maine Environmental Education Association. Red’s contributions were formative and integral to the foundation of our work together and we are grateful for their time and expertise. Red did not engage in the full duration of the group as they had to step away from this work to care for themselves and focus on other DEIJ initiatives.

MLTN Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Updates

“I made new connections and friendships and that was expected. What surprised me was that this work helped me better understand and relate to people who I have known for years. It made me listen in a deeper way to what they are saying, and motivated me to work harder to understand their language.”

Top photo by Clay Banks from Unsplash   | Bottom photo by Shane Rounce from Unsplash