Maine is the most forested state in our country. Its woodlands, from large forests to small woodlots, are symbolic of our state, but are too often taken for granted or not fully recognized for how they sustain and inspire us every day—through our livelihoods, our history and traditions, and our quality of life. As Maine’s population has become less rural and more suburban and urban, public consensus about safeguarding the future of Maine’s woodlands is now less apparent.
Maine Woods Forever therefore initiated a year-long, broad-based collaboration called Celebrate the Maine Woods! to deepen the understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of Maine’s forests and woodlands for all their uses and values. This project emphasized the common ground that exists among communities and diverse entities large and small, local and statewide, which, each in their own unique way, tell the story of why stewardship of these natural resources is central to the well-being and legacy of all Mainers.
Further, this collaborative effort encouraged partners to re-energize and broaden the impact of projects they were already carrying out by using the Celebrate! umbrella, and to create new initiatives capitalizing on the larger theme. We inspired new environmental education efforts for Maine students and facilitated public events where persons of local and national renown highlighted the historic and ongoing legacy of our forests and woodlands.
The year of Celebrate the Maine Woods! began in September 2013, and ran through September 2014. Maine Woods Forever worked with partner organizations to publicize events and facilitate their overall integration into the larger celebration. Participants funded their own events, projects, series, or other approaches to celebrating the Maine Woods.
Exploratory conversations brought lively responses from the worlds of education, land conservation, forestry and forest products, recreation, hunting and fishing, the arts, native peoples, history and heritage, tourism, libraries, agriculture, state agencies, and the media. Possibilities for Celebrate the Maine Woods! proved to be plentiful, providing abundant opportunities for people to better understand and care about Maine’s forests and woodlands, and their influence on the quality of our lives each day—environmentally, economically, educationally, culturally, and through our sense of place.
Everyone we approached agreed that reaching and involving people of all ages, especially our youth, is paramount, in the belief that an enlightened public will be much more likely to safeguard the vitality and benefits of Maine’s forests and woodlands, now and in the future. We also found agreement that, because these natural resources represent and impact the broadest aspect of Maine’s heritage, everyone will have something to embrace in this project, whether in their own backyard or farther afield.
Together, all of us collaborating in Celebrate the Maine Woods! had an unusual opportunity to inform and inspire untold numbers of Maine people, who hold in their hands the long-term future of the Maine Woods.
Maine Woods Forever is a 501(c)(3) all-volunteer nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the legacy of Maine’s forests and woodlands, promoting stewardship and responsible uses by finding common ground with diverse people and groups. To guide this project we enlisted a well-rounded Steering Committee. We invited all participants to incorporate the Celebrate! theme, as appropriate, in events and projects beginning September 2013 and to bring in others to ensure that this initiative reached as broad an audience as possible.