Gov. Janet Mills presents the 2019 Austin Wilkins Award to the Maine Association of Conservation Districts

Left to right, Marcia McKeague, TREE Foundation president; (holding award) Andrew Reed, MACD president; Gov. Janet Mills; Merle Ring, board chair, Oxford County SWCD; Jeannie Federico, outreach and education coordinator, Oxford County SWCD; Linda Hooker, board supervisor, Oxford County SWCD; (Behind Andy Reed) Tom Doore, board chair, Kennebec County SWCD; (partially blocked) Bob Leso, associate supervisor, Franklin County SWCD;  Joseph Dembeck, executive director, Somerset County SWCD; Melissa Brandt, executive director, York County SWCD, and Carol Weymouth, executive director, MACD.

AUGUSTA, Maine, Oct. 22 — Gov. Janet Mills presented the prestigious 2019 Austin H. Wilkins Forest Stewardship Award to  the Maine Association of Conservation Districts (MACD) at the Blaine House. The award was created by the Maine TREE Foundation and the Department of Conservation in 2004, to recognize people or organizations that stand above their peers to further forestry, forests, or forestland conservation in the State of Maine.

“I think any time we can come together and applaud good forestry in this state – sustainable forestry – we should do it,” said Marcia McKeague, president of the TREE Foundation Board (TREE stands for Timber Research and Environmental Education).

MACD is a non‐profit, private organization that represents Maine’s 16 local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, which work with landowners, nonprofit organizations and federal, state, and local governments to protect soil, water, forests, wildlife, and other natural resources for more than 75 years.

“There’s no question we’ve been through difficult times but our forests are and always will be the core of Maine’s history, its culture and Maine’s future,” Gov. Mills said when she presented the 2019 award. “So congratulations to the Maine Association of Conservation Districts on this well-deserved honor and, on behalf of the people of Maine, thank you for all you do for this great state.”

The award is named after its first recipient Austin Wilkins, who pioneered the development of the Maine Forest Service, led the fight against the devastating forest fires of 1947, assisted Gov. Percival Baxter in the creation of Baxter State Park and served under 13 governors as a commissioner or deputy commissioner. He died in 2005 at age 102.  More information and previous winners.

“We are delighted to present the 2019 Austin Wilkins award to the Maine Association of Conservation Districts,” said Henry L. Whittemore, executive director of the TREE Foundation. “This is a boots-on-the-ground, get-things-done organization that has a direct impact for landowners in the management of Maine’s forests and farmland. MACDs deliver outcome-based practices that protect water quality, improve soil productivity, and thus benefit Maine’s natural resource sectors. Austin Wilkins would be proud to confer this award on the MACD; their mission and work outcomes embody the spirit and intent of this prestigious award.”

Accepting the award were MACD President Andrew Reed and Executive Director Carol Weymouth.

“I think it’s an honor and privilege and one of the best things to ever happen to MACD and the 16 soil and water conservation districts,” Reed said.

The soil and water conservation districts own and manage urban woodlots, utilizing them for education and recreation. They manage them “with forest stewardship in mind always,” Weymouth said. “We appreciate the work of the soil and water districts staff, boards and volunteers. They work tirelessly to educate and do a real phenomenal job of that.”

“I can’t think of a better recipient than MACD and the districts that make it up,” said MFS Director Patty Cormier, who has worked with MACD for two decades. Ron Lovaglio photo.

Both Amanda Beal, commissioner of the Maine Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Department (ACF), and Patty Cormier, director of the Maine Forest Service (MFS), emphasized that Maine’s 16 soil and water conservation districts work closely with ACF and MFS staff throughout the state.

“MACD has partnered with us to increase awareness of invasive pests in forests and the districts have offered education and outreach programs on forest pest identification, the dangers of transporting firewood, particularly from out of state and methods for woodlot owners to protect their trees,” Beal said.

Cormier, who has worked with MACD for two decades, had special praise for MACD’s Evirothon, a natural resource problem-solving competition for grades 9-12, and Yankee Woodlot, a collaborative effort of MFS and the Somerset County Soil and Water Conservation District. 

“I think of the Envirothon and wonder how many of them graduate and go into other natural resource fields,” she said. “Then I think of the Yankee Woodlot and the many, many workshops, from GPS to forest management. You guys have a big reach and I appreciate that. I look forward to more years working with you.”

Cormier added that she felt “very honored to be here today. This is really special. This award in Austin Wilkins name represents commitment, public service, and stewardship of our natural resources. And I can’t think of a better recipient than MACD and the districts that make it up.”