Story posted July 05, 2010
The Bowdoin College Environmental Studies program and its students have been acknowledged as contributors to an effort that was awarded the Association of Maine Planners "Plan of the Year."
Over a four-year period, the program and its students made contributions in the way of fellowships and community-based courses to the Sagadahoc Regional Rural Resources Initiative (SRRRI), which is the outgrowth of region-wide interest in protecting the area's "rural resources." The award was presented June 9, 2010.
"The Sagadahoc region's rural areas still have large un-fragmented tracts of land where both wildlife and rural enterprises thrive," says Liz Hertz, director of land use for the State Planning Office, who received the award on behalf of the group.
"It is a rich fabric, woven together by shared resources that rarely honor municipal boundaries. However, residential development is rapidly spreading out from the service centers into the working rural areas, where land is less expensive. As farms and other large lots are divided up, the ecological functions and rural values of the area are put in jeopardy."
The project's goal was to inventory the region's rural resources and then provide communities with the tools to protect open space and natural resources so that crucial rural functions could continue to thrive.
Bowdoin students have been involved with the project from its beginning stages.
"It is a great example of how long-term student engagement can help to move these types of projects forward," says Environmental Studies Program Manager Eileen Johnson.
"One of the earliest accomplishments was by a student in the summer of 2005 who inventoried towns' data needs. A direct outcome of this study was the preparation of a successful state grant that provided resources for all of the towns to have their parcels mapped. The parcel data has been used by a number of subsequent student projects and was a critical component of the final SRRRI mapping project."
As part of summer fellowships and environmental studies courses, students mapped wildlife corridors and regional trails, developed spatial models that prioritized high value habitats, and produced data that was incorporated into the resulting maps and guidebook for towns.
Katrina Van Dusen, convener of the group and regional planner for the initiative over the last several years gives credit to the work of many Bowdoin students who contributed to the project.
"The multi-year partnership between SRRRI and Bowdoin College has been fruitful for all involved," says Van Dusen.
"Students have brought great value to the project by interviewing local leaders, helping facilitate a public visioning session, and most especially, creating a variety of maps of local and regional interest. Student GIS mapping projects have provided towns in the region critical analysis of the importance of natural resources and open spaces and have helped set land and resource protection priorities."
In March, towns within the region were given copies of the resulting maps as well as the conservation blueprint written by Van Dusen and members of the SRRRI steering committee. Jane Koopman '10 was one of the presenters at the meeting. Her research on approaches for prioritizing areas for their agricultural value is just one of a series of student projects that have built upon the SRRRI project. Her work will contribute to local land conservation work in the identification and protection of high-value agricultural lands.
"The time I spent working on the SRRRI project my senior year at Bowdoin forced me out of the academic world, and gave me the chance to interact with individuals who would directly be affected by the decisions that came out of this project," says Ben Martens '06, who worked with SRRRI staff to identify a model for sharing the results with area towns.
"This experience introduced me to the idea of community-based problem solving and prepared me well for working with small communities of fishermen on Cape Cod who are trying to protect their unique way of life in a world of increasingly complicated regulations and environmental goals."