Protecting the Legacy of Maine's Forests and Woodlands
Board of Directors & Advisors
Suzanne AuClair, Rockwood, ME
Suzanne AuClair is Executive Director of the Moosehead Historical Society & Museums. For the past 23 years she has written extensively about the natural resources, outdoors, people, events, and economy of the Moosehead Lake region, with a specific interest in placing the life, times, and changes of the North Woods within historical context. She is a long-time columnist with the Northwoods Sporting Journal, Maine’s premiere sportsmen’s magazine. She has actively served many boards, including vice president of the International Seaplane Fly-In, vice president of the Moosehead Region Futures Committee, and the Natural Resource Education Center. Most recently, Suzanne initiated and produced the State of Maine’s first fisheries management reference anthology The Origin, Formation & History of Maine’s Inland Fisheries Division.
Bridget Besaw, Friendship, ME
Bridget Besaw is the founder of Seedlight Pictures, where she produces advocacy film for environmental stories. As a photographer she captured stories for Smithsonian, Time, Forbes, and Fortune among others. Bridget has shot, directed and produced numerous short films for environmental organizations on stories of resource depletion and sustainability. Her films Growing Local and Seeding a Dream won several audience choice awards as well as finalist for the DCEFF Eric Moe Sustainability Award. Her latest short films include Guided and The Nature of Maps, both in 2016/17 festivals. Bridget is currently in production on The Mountain and The Magic City, a feature documentary about the national park debate in Maine— for which she was selected to be a CIFF Points North Fellow in 2016. Bridget is a communication advisor for the Environmental Visual Communication program at Fleming College in Toronto.
Bart DeWolf, Lexington, MA
Bart DeWolf was Science Director for the non-profit conservation foundation Elliotsville Plantation, Inc., from 2004 until he retired in 2009. He completed an ecological assessment of over 74,000 acres of EPI’s holdings along the East Branch of the Penobscot, land which has subsequently been donated to form the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. As Science Director, he conducted the EPI internship program and managed all aspects of stewardship on EPI lands, including planning for habitat restoration, infrastructure and public use management, contractor selection and supervision, evaluation of new acquisitions, and liaison with other organizations. As part of his duties for EPI, he supported Maine Woods Forever by helping to organize the Thoreau-Wabanaki Trail project, joining the board in 2009. Prior to his work as Science Director, he worked as a consultant for EPI and others conducting natural resource inventory and ecological assessment on properties in Maine near Greenville in Piscataquis County, and near the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge in Oxford County. Bart has an M.S. degree in environmental studies from Antioch New England Graduate School (2001), an A.B. degree from Princeton University in physics (1964), and a Ph.D. from MIT in geophysics (1969). In a previous life he worked as a systems engineer at the Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts for nearly 30 years. He and his wife Lucy have one son and currently live in Lexington, Massachusetts.
Paul Haertel, Southwest Harbor, ME
Paul Haertel was Superintendent of Acadia National Park from 1994 until he retired in 2002. He began his career with the National Park Service in 1962 as a ranger at Isle Royale National Park. Except for a two year stint in the U.S. Army, he worked in various ranger positions at Isle Royale, Sequoia-Kings Canyon, and Mount Rainier national parks. Following these assignments, he was Superintendent of Fort Clatsop National Memorial Park; Lava Beds National Monument; Kenai Fjords National Park; Lake Clark National Park and Preserve; and, finally, Acadia National Park. While first stationed in Alaska, he also served as the Chief of Operations and Management for the (at that time) five national park areas in the state. In his last Alaska assignment and following his tour at Lake Clark, he served as an Associate Regional Director for the Alaska Region with statewide and international programmatic responsibilities. He was recognized for his work on many occasions including the Department of Interior Meritorious Service and Honor Awards, and successive Superior Performance Awards. After his retirement, Friends of Acadia honored him with their Maryanne Edwards Award for exceptional service. Paul was born and raised in Oak Park, Illinois, and received his college education at Valparaiso University and Michigan College of Mining and Technology. He graduated from Michigan Tech with a bachelor’s degree in forest management in 1963. Since retiring, he has committed himself to several volunteer church and non-profit board activities including those of Maine Woods Forever. He and his wife Margot have three grown children and six grandsons and continue to live in Southwest Harbor, Maine.
Jennifer Irving, Unity, ME
Jennifer Irving is Community Cultivator at 47 Daisies, a nonprofit working farm in Vassalboro working to restore connections between people, our food system and the natural world. From 2005 to 2016, Jennifer served as Executive Director of the Sebasticook Regional Land Trust (formerly Friends of Unity Wetlands), where she continues to serve on the Board of Directors. Previously she was Executive Director at Pemaquid Watershed Association in Damariscotta, Maine, working with landowners to protect water quality and conserve wildlife habitat within the Pemaquid River watershed. Prior to 2002 Jennifer worked for environmental consultant Battelle, where her primary clients were the U.S. EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Jennifer graduated from Duke University with a degree in environmental science and policy and studied fisheries policy as a graduate student at the University of Maine. Jennifer is a member of the Maine Land Trust Network Steering Committee and in her free time she enjoys exploring the Maine woods with her children.
Paul Johnson (Treasurer), Oakland, ME
Paul Johnson is a retired fishery biologist. From 1969 to 2005, interrupted by two years of service in the U.S. Army, Paul worked for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in the Moosehead Lake Region. He was responsible for surveying, developing management plans, and implementing those plans for the fisheries in lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams that comprise the headwaters of the Kennebec and Penobscot and St. John rivers. Fisheries management activities provided him the opportunity to work cooperatively with the owners and managers of private lands in Maine’s North Woods, with State and Federal agencies, and with citizens and nongovernmental organizations interested in conserving Maine’s forests and woodlands and their associated natural resources. While living in Greenville, Paul served on the town’s planning board and school board. He was a founding member of the Natural Resource Education Center at Moosehead. Paul received an A.B. degree from Bowdoin College where he majored in biology (1968), and an M.S. degree from the University of Maine in resource utilization (1981). Since retiring he and his wife Jean have lived in Oakland, Maine, closer to their two sons and their grandchildren. He remains active in efforts to conserve Maine’s land and water resources. Since 2007 he has been a board member of Maine Woods Forever. In 2015, he joined the board of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway Foundation.
Marion (Mimi) McConnell, Sumner, ME & Cape Cod, MA
Mimi McConnell is co-founder of Maine Woods Forever. She was also a founder of Save the Bay which aims to protect and improve Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, and was the first executive director of the Coalition for Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts, building it into a major organization. She was appointed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to chair a Community Working Group, charged with creating a master plan for the 22,000-acre Massachusetts Military Reservation on Cape Cod, with the resultant legislation considered a national model. She was Associate Director of Development at Brown University, securing funds for performing arts buildings, literary and visual arts, libraries, and renewable energy. She was Special Projects Director of the Renewable Energy Institute in Washington, D.C. She has also been Public Relations/Outreach Director at the Maryland Institute College of Art; President of the Town Council of Barnstable, Cape Cod; and President of the Board for the New Alchemy Institute, also on Cape Cod. She was honored at the White House for her role in creating the Assateague Island National Seashore. She grew up on the family farm in western Pennsylvania, holds a B.A. degree from Westminster College, and has three children and three grandchildren.
Tom Mullin, Unity, ME,/dt>
Tom Mullin joined the faculty of Unity College in 1999. He is currently an Associate Professor of Parks and Forest Resources, as well as the program coordinator for that major. Tom was recognized recently as one of the top three faculty members in Maine for community-based and service learning, recognizing the work his classes have done with local land trusts and organizations on land-use planning to enhance effective communication strategies. Prior to coming to Unity College, he had served as executive director for several land trusts and had been a manager of a nature center/park in Virginia. He is a long-time board member, current Secretary and member of the Executive Committee, and a Fellow and Founder of the National Association for Interpretation. Tom also serves on the steering committee of the Waldo County Trails Coalition and the Advisory Committee of the Friends of Sears Island. Since 2013 he has been on the Stewardship Council of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Tom has been interested in the Maine woods for nearly all his life, beginning as a teenager with an Explorer Post. He also thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1987.
Greg Ponte, W. Gardiner, ME
Greg Ponte is a retired U.S. Merchant Marine Deck Officer who traveled to many foreign ports of call during 23 years of shipping. After retiring from the sea at 45 years of age he became very active as a volunteer with Trout Unlimited. During the past 15 years Greg has held various positions at the local, state, and national level with Trout Unlimited and has also been a Maine Woods Forever board member since 2008. During this time he has also taught fly tying and fly casting to many young people and adults across Maine. Greg graduated from Maine Maritime Academy in 1976 with a B.S. in Nautical Science and attained a U.S. Coast Guard Unlimited Master Ocean license during his sea-going career. An avid angler and sailor he lives with his wife Donna in West Gardiner, Maine, on Cobbossee Stream.
Laura Rose Day (President), Hallowell, ME
Laura Rose Day is a Principal of Source to Sea Consulting. Through 2016, she was Executive Director of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, the non-profit organization that led implementation of the historic Penobscot River Restoration Project. Successfully completed in 2016, the project was a public-private collaboration between dam owners, tribal, state and federal government, conservation groups and citizens to restore sea-run fish populations while maintaining hydropower generation. As a result, sea-run fish are increasing and many now migrate between the ocean and inland forested historic habitat that they’ve been unable to reach for many generations. Laura holds degrees in law and wildlife resources and has served as counsel to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Manager of the National Wildlife Federation’s Lake Superior and Biodiversity Project, and as Watershed Program Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. She’s worked on results-oriented conservation projects including water quality, pollution prevention, habitat restoration, sustainable forestry and fish passage.
John Rust, Hampden, ME
John Rust is a business consultant with a professional background in marketing who specializes in the outdoor recreation and lodging industry, primarily in the Moosehead and Katahdin regions. John currently serves on the Piscataquis County Tourism Development Authority, and is founder of the Maine Sporting Camp Heritage Foundation and the Maine Guides Education Fund. A lifelong outdoorsman, John is a Registered Master Maine Guide and a Life Member of the Maine Professional Guides Association where he served nine terms as Vice President and then served as the Association’s first Executive Director. John chaired several of the Association’s committees including that on the Allagash Waterway, and represented Maine Guides on the Maine Tourism Commission. John has canoed throughout the north woods, covering trips like the Allagash, the West Branch and Lobster Lake, Allagash Lake and Stream, Big Black, and the St. John from Baker Lake to St. Francis. While John loves to fish and hunt, his greatest pleasure comes from exploring the many side streams, and just watching the scenery and wildlife from his classic Chestnut wood-canvas “Ogilvy” canoe. John holds a B.S. in Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a MBA with a marketing specialty from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. John grew up in York, Maine, where tourism is vital, and where his family owned a restaurant, ocean-front motel, guest lodge, and summer rental cottages. He is also a licensed floatplane pilot.
Tom Sidar (Secretary), Portland, ME
Tom Sidar retired as Executive Director of Frenchman Bay Conservancy, an accredited land trust based in Hancock, Maine. Previous career positions include Senior Vice President and Chief Merchandising Officer of L.L. Bean and Senior Vice President of the National Wildlife Federation. Volunteer positions include past President of the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) board of directors, past chair of the AMC Capital Campaign and past member of the Advisory Commission of Acadia National Park. Tom lives in Portland and Belgrade Lakes, Maine. He enjoys fly fishing, hunting, mountain climbing, and cross country skiing.
Chris Sockalexis, Indian Island, ME
Chris Sockalexis is the Penobscot Nation Tribal Historic Preservation Officer. In this position, his mission is to manage, preserve, and protect the Penobscot Nation’s cultural and historic properties, resources, and interests within the Penobscot cultural landscape of Maine. He is a graduate of the University of Maine with a degree in Anthropology focusing on Maine Archaeology and two minor degrees in Earth Science and Native American Studies. His current research at the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute involves Cultural Identity and Maritime Adaptation within the Gulf of Maine. Chris is an avid canoe/kayak paddler who loves being out on the water in the Maine wilderness.
Sarah Spencer, Orono, ME
Sarah Spencer is an Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Previously, she was a Forester/Associate Wildlife Biologist with the James W. Sewall Company, Old Town, Maine, working with landowners, large and small, to manage and monitor forestland and conduct ecological inventories. Prior to 2011, Sarah studied seabirds, monitored waterfowl population and disease, and sampled and identified invertebrates in Maine; she also monitored sparrows, swallows, shorebirds, saltmarsh vegetation and non-native invasive plants in the northeastern U.S. She grew up on a small woodlot in Maine and holds a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Maine, as well as a M.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In her free time, Sarah enjoys gardening and fly fishing, and serving as President-elect of the Maine Chapter of The Wildlife Society.
Jerry Stelmok, Atkinson, ME
Jerry Stelmok is the owner of the Island Falls Canoe Company and has been building traditional wood and canvas canoes since 1975. In over forty years, he has built hundreds of canoes for customers across the country and around the world. Jerry has taught his craft from his shop, at the Wooden Boat School, and at venues as distant as Seattle, Washington. Jerry lives in Atkinson and is a native Mainer who grew up on a family dairy farm in Auburn in the 1950’s and 60’s. He was educated in Auburn schools and received a B.A. in English from the University of Maine at Orono in 1970. After two years on active duty in the Navy he attended a two year boat building program on Quoddy Head in Lubec receiving a diploma in 1975. Jerry came by his interest in conservation from a lifelong love of the outdoors, fishing, hunting, and canoeing. He has three grown children. He has published five books ranging from canoe building to short fiction, and enjoys painting when time permits and he can’t get outside.
Bryan Wentzell, Portland, ME
Bryan Wentzell is the Executive Director of the Maine Mountain Collaborative (MMC), a position he assumed in 2016. MMC is a coalition of state, regional and national conservation organizations bringing a shared focus and innovative financing to accelerate the pace and scale of conservation in the Maine Mountain Region. Previously, Bryan was the Maine Policy and Program Director for the Appalachian Mountain Club for over 12 years. He directed AMC’s conservation policy work in Maine, including coordination of the Maine Woods Initiative – AMC’s strategy for conservation in the 100-Mile Wilderness region, which encompasses ownership of 70,000 acres of forestland. Prior to that, he worked in AMC’s conservation department. He holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Middlebury College and is a private pilot. He is originally from Maine, grew up in New Hampshire, and currently resides in Portland.
Karen Woodsum (Vice President), Wayne, ME
Karen Woodsum was for 15 years the Director of the Sierra Club’s Maine Woods Campaign, including the conception and implementation of the 100-Mile Wilderness Project. She was appointed to the Governor’s Task Force on Public Lands, the Comprehensive Land Use Plan Working Group, and served on the Keeping Maine’s Forests Steering Committee. Karen has over 30 years of experience with wilderness and wildlife protection including projects with the Alaska Wilderness Alliance, Defenders of Wildlife, National Audubon, and the Natural Resources Council of Maine. In 1985 she convened the International Wolf Symposium in Washington, D.C., with the National Geographic Society and in 1990 designed and ran Allagash canoe trips for at-risk youth. Karen holds a degree in Natural Resources from the University of Maine, Orono.
Candy Canders Russell