Downeast Maine’s greatest asset is its unique and charismatic natural capital: intact ecosystems, healthy watersheds, and distinctive glacial geology. In addition to its natural assets the region boasts thousands of acres of potentially accessible lands in the form of national and state parks, wildlife refuges, working forests, and lands conserved by land trusts. Scientific studies show that the Downeast and Acadia region (Hancock and Washington counties) contains many of the cleanest, most natural and least developed watersheds and wildlife corridors on the East Coast of the United States. Other regional characteristics include:
- Hancock and Washington counties total land area is 4,445 sq miles/ 11,500 sq km
- 2010 population for Hancock Co is 54,418 and Washington Co is 32,856. Hancock Co has seen a 5% increase while Washington has seen a 3 % decrease.
- Resource-based economy includes fisheries, forest products, and agriculture. There is also a large tourism, real estate, and construction economy.
- Both counties together have 200,000+ acres of ponds & lakes; 3,300+ miles of streams; 1,000+ river miles; and 2,700 sq mi of forest cover
- The two-county region has 54 of Maine’s 87 (62%) globally significant seabird nesting islands as well as thousands of acres of significant shorebird, eelgrass, eagle, wading bird, and waterfowl habitats.
- The region is home to nine significant Atlantic salmon (and 10 other migratory fish species) watersheds as well as numerous smaller coastal drainages.
- It is bordered on the west by the Penobscot River, which is the state’s largest and New England’s second largest watershed, and on the east by the St Croix River International Waterway.
- The region boasts 5 universities/colleges, ~11 land trusts, ~15 conservation organizations/institutions, ~6 state and federal government agency offices and four Native American tribes (Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Maliseet, and Micmac).
Downeast Research, Education, and Conservation Roundtable 2010
In response to the increased interest in regional research and conservation, the Frenchman Bay Conservancy (FBC) and its partners held a Downeast and Acadia Research, Education, and Conservation Roundtable on August 23, 2010. The goal of the roundtable was to explore the concept that the ecologically valuable lands of the Downeast region, if promoted for research and education, could be an economic driver for the communities in the area. The primary outcome of the roundtable, which was attended by 34 regional representatives, was a consensus to move forward on forming a research, conservation, and education network and to hold a more comprehensive conference in 2011. FBC received a grant from the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation in fall of 2010 to continue these efforts (see DEREN Meetings and Conferences for reports).
The CONVERGENCE 2011 Conference was held at the University of Maine at Machias (UMM) on June 17, 2011 and was attended by 70 participants from 49 different organizations and agencies. The conference was designed to foster a day-long networking opportunity and discussion on how collaborative research and education can be enhanced in the rich lands and waters of Downeast Maine. Four central themes/goals for moving forward emerged from the conference (see CONVERGENCE 2011 Report 5 August 2011):
- Engage researchers in order to promote conservation and social research on Downeast and Acadia conserved lands by conducting annual research exchange meetings and maintaining research databases.
- Develop effective GIS mapping tools and land conservation databases in order to facilitate collaborations between conservation organizations and researchers.
- Strengthen network communications via email distribution lists, a listserve, website, and annual CONVERGENCE Conferences
- Establish a process and fund a study that explores and documents the economic value of regional conservation research and education