Got a favorite outdoor place that needs protection? Time to speak up!

winter streamHere’s a great opportunity to help protect your favorite places, be they land or water or both. I’m already building a long list. Rarely are we given an opportunity like this, so I’m going to make the most of it, and I hope you do too.

Maine’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, is looking for our input on natural resources concerns, with a goal of helping Conservation Districts to assist landowners and municipalities in protecting its most valuable land and water assets. And they’re asking for our help through a survey and public meetings. You may win a prize for completing the survey, but the biggest prize of all would be the protection of our very best lands and waters.

You can get the survey from your local Soil & Water Conservation District, or complete it online here. And you have until the end of March to do so although they’d like to get it sooner. You can also attend a local or regional meeting, and you’ll find them listed online here. So far meetings are scheduled in Aroostook, Franklin, Knox, and Lincoln counties, but more will be scheduled and listed on the website sometime soon. Here’s the press release I received recently from Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry.


Maine Soil & Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs), in cooperation with USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), are conducting a Natural Resources Assessment (NRA) across the state and need the help of Maine’s citizens! The goal is to determine natural resource priorities so that Districts and NRCS can assist landowners, professionals, and municipalities with best management practices that protect and improve land and water resources. To gather this information, Districts are distributing a statewide survey and holding local meetings to document natural resource conservation concerns and to build on the data collected in the first assessment, completed in 2011. The priorities articulated in the survey and meetings will inform state and local natural resource programs and funding opportunities in the coming five year cycle.

According to Dale Finseth, Executive Director of Kennebec SWCD, “The Natural Resources Assessment process is a great opportunity for people who may or may not own land, and may or may not be associated with a conservation organization to express their conservation priorities by completing a survey or participating in a free-wheeling discussion at a locally held meeting. The results of this process stand to have a broad reach starting with your local conservation district on up to the state level. The Dept. of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, DEP, and state legislators are already anxious to see the survey results.”

Joe Dembeck, Executive Director of Somerset County SWCD, coordinated the development of the 2016 NRA survey to help guide the assessment process. Dembeck said, “This year’s survey will be distributed by all 16 conservation districts and will address statewide conservation concerns as well as give us the chance to drill down to local issues and priorities. We are asking that all citizens make their voices heard by participating in the assessment, whether by completing a survey or attending a local meeting.”

To encourage participation, some conservation districts will enter everyone who completes a survey – or attends a meeting – into a drawing for an exciting prize. Districts encourage farmers, woodland owners, resource professionals, and members of the general public to take advantage of this opportunity to make your voice heard. The survey may be accessed online at, or you may contact your local conservation district for a paper copy at complete the survey as soon as possible and by March 31, 2016 at the latest.

Preliminary survey results will be available at local, county level meetings that will be scheduled throughout the month of March. Join friends and neighbors at a local meeting for a lively discussion about protecting Maine’s natural resources and complete a survey to be eligible for a prize. For more information about the Natural Resources Assessment, to access the online survey, to contact your local conservation district, or to find out when your county meeting will be held, please visit the Maine Association of Conservation Districts website at

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.