A window into Maine’s conservation movement“Sailor for the Wild: On Maine, Conservation and Boats”

By Ben Emory;
Seapoint Books, 2018; 224 pp.; $19.95.

Reviewed by Fiona Gordon
Natural Resources Council of Maine

Ben Emory provides a detailed account of how his formative years spent summering on the coast of Maine framed his personal and professional lifelong commitment to conserving land and, through that, wildlife habitat, resources, and Maine’s ever-intoxicating, nature-bound ethos. The book is a fun and inventive window into the beginnings of a movement that has forever changed Maine’s landscape.

From his unique vantage, which changes over the years from active volunteer to Executive Director and back, the author describes the founding of Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) in a neighbor’s living room and the organization’s growth into a tremendous resource for guiding conservation easements in Maine and serving the interest of the state’s many local land trusts.

While reading about the ins and outs of MCHT’s early years, I was struck by the juncture between land conservation and advocacy. The workings of conservation advocacy are well described by the author as he and others founded what would become the Land Trust Alliance, creating a national coalition and retaining professional guidance on how best to advocate for conservation at the federal level. Maine people owe Mr. Emory, and those like him, a great deal, though as he acknowledges, the environment has changed quite a bit in the last 40 years, and the road isn’t finished.

This story is told through his sailing escapades – often landmark moments that deepen his affection for Maine. The personal connection these anecdotes lend to the serious topic gives the book a unique lens and substantial color. I found myself laughing as he vividly described sinking his Bullseye in an unexpected Memorial Day blow, and captivated by the romance of Maine’s wooden boat history as he passionately illuminated the glory of the yachts and those who built them. My ultimate takeaway: both continued conservation and vigilant environmental advocacy are necessary for preserving Maine’s future and economic impacts, and tradition will continue to be valuable selling points. If you want to learn about how a major piece of Maine got to where it is today, this in-depth and animated read should be on your booklist.

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