Maine Coast Heritage Trust Presents 2023 Espy Land Heritage Award to Janet McMahon

Janet McMahon on the Allagash

Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) has named Waldoboro resident Janet McMahon as recipient of the 2023 Espy Land Heritage Award, an annual award that recognizes an individual, organization, or coalition for exemplary conservation efforts in Maine. 

During her decades-long career, McMahon has worked as a scientist, an educator, and a steward for a wide range of organizations and causes, including The Nature Conservancy, Maine Audubon Society, Maine State Planning Office, and the Maine Critical Areas Program. She has led conservation planning across the state and consulted on countless ecological projects from the Allagash Wilderness Waterway to the Western Mountains of Maine to supporting the Maine Rivers Act that continues to have lasting influence on river conservation in Maine. Early in her career, McMahon pioneered the establishment of ecological reserves within public land holdings. She helped found the Medomak Valley Land Trust and produced the conservation plan for the 12 Rivers Conservation Initiative, a land trust collaboration that shares an ecologically focused conservation plan for Maine’s Midcoast region. She also taught a global climate change course to high school students in Camden for more than a decade and for the past year has helped develop training sessions for conservationists as part of the First Light collaboration between Maine’s conservation organizations and the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Mi’kmaq Communities.

She is also a recipient of the New England Wildflower Society’s Maine State Award, the Natural Resources Council of Maine’s Environmental Activist Award, the Maine Association of Planners Special Recognition Award, and the RESTORE Restoration Leadership Award.

“Janet McMahon’s decades-long career has been extraordinary,” says MCHT President & CEO Kate Stookey, as she announced Janet as recipient and introduced a moving video tribute. “She has laid the groundwork for so many who work in the fields of biology, ecology, and conservation, and her contributions to the land trust community in Maine have been profound and far reaching.”   

“With 40 years of dedicated service to protecting and restoring Maine’s native biodiversity and natural areas, Janet has had an enormous role in advancing many important conservation issues statewide,” says Lissa Widoff, consultant, and former interim executive director of Midcoast Conservancy.  “Her voice is respected, and her work provides guidance, direction, and strategies upon which many land trusts and conservation efforts in Maine depend.”  

“Janet’s contributions to our understanding of the value Maine’s natural resources, writ large, have been extraordinary,” says Alec Giffen of New England Forestry Foundation. “She’s worked on natural resources of virtually all types from landscape scale to highly discrete microscale habitats for rare plants. Her work is always carefully researched, accurate, presented humbly, and clearly communicated.”

“Thanks to Janet, we have a bio-reserve system. We have heightened awareness of the intrinsic values of Maine’s natural resources.  In fact, SHE is one of our treasured natural resources,” says MCHT Director of Stewardship Jane Arbuckle.

McMahon received her B.A. in biology and geology from Colby College, where she graduated with distinction. She earned a master’s degree in plant ecology from the University of Maine.

In honoring past President Jay Espy with this award, the board of directors of MCHT created a fund that awards $5,000 per year to a conservation charity in honor of that year’s Espy Land Heritage Award winner. This year, the financial award will be divided equally between the Wabanaki Self-Determination Fund and Midcoast Conservancy Clarry Hill Highlands Project.