LELT executive director claims conservation lifestyle

Thom Perkins

Thom Perkins

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

From the window of his new office, Thom Perkins can view one entrance to Pondicherry Park, the land conservation easement managed by Loon Echo Land Trust (LELT).

Along with the novel office space, Perkins has a new job title, too. He has been hired as the executive director of LELT.

However, he hasn’t had time to get bored with the four walls and pleasing view because Perkins has spent plenty of hours doing his job outside of Loon Echo’s headquarters.

Already, Perkins has traveled throughout the Lake Region, getting introduced to so many members of the public. On Tuesday, he partook in a discussion about the soon-to-be-finalized Raymond Community Forest Project, talking about the vast recreational opportunities and the future trail system on that large parcel. On Wednesday, he and the LELT staff hosted a two-hour presentation about the land trust for an audience of college seniors at Bridgton’s Magic Lantern. Earlier in April, he got a face-to-face with Loon Echo’s Board of Directors.

“This board is pretty special. We have a concerned, enlightened board that is very supportive,” he said, adding he has held jobs which required him to work with boards of directors in the past.

As Perkins gets his bearings, former Executive Director Carrie Walia is on hand to make the transition smooth. Walia’s new title is senior adviser until she resigns in June.

According to Perkins, land conservation is more than an occupation, it’s a lifestyle.

“I grew up in the ‘60s. That is the mindset of the pattern of my life. Conservation is something I am interested in. I’ve worked for decades in land conservation,” he said.

Some of the ways he has furthered the conservation cause have included legislation, landowner protection, marketing and public relations.

“My strong point — as it relates to this job — is land owner relations. If someone wants to conserve their lands, there are several options: donate the land or a conservation easement to a land trust like Loon Echo,” he said.

“This organization is not in the business of land grabbing. It is about protecting the environment for future generations. Land might be set aside for its view-shed or historical purposes,” he said.

“When an easement is put into conservation, the purposes are stated, such as recreational trails are allowed and farming and logging. Say (the person who donated the land) wanted to keep it to human-powered, not motorized. If there is a violation of that policy, this organization takes care of it,” Perkins said.

“It is important that community forests and recreational opportunities are available. The trails that we built and provide on Pleasant Mountain and Bald Pate Mountain, the trails are for everyone, you don’t have to be rich to enjoy it. The land is available for everyone from young children to grandparents,” he said.

On LELT-managed land, “we are conducting school programs with the heads of grammar schools, nature evenings, and hawk migration watching.”

Up and coming in mid-June is the annual acoustic sunset on Hacker’s Hill. That is where Perkins might be able to intertwine what he most loves: land conservation, music and his lady.

“I also play music. Bennett and Perkins is a husband-and-wife band. That is what we do for fun. We play music. We do concerts,” he said.

His musical genre is Americana and folk music. Bennett and Perkins have produced a couple of CDs, along with a third person who plays the mandolin. Both Perkins and his wife play the guitar.

When Perkins isn’t busy playing music, he might be listening to the lullaby of the sea or the orchestra of the ocean.

“I like to sail. I’ve sailed Sebago Lake and Long Lake. Right now, I have the boat in the ocean. I have sailed on the coast of Maine for over 35 years — including the Bay of Fundy and Nova Scotia,” he said.

As he has done in the past, Perkins will continue to be a part of land preservation for all its reasons.

“The viewscape is something we conserve,” Perkins said. “Sometimes, those viewscapes are just farmland. It’s not always hiking that you need to enjoy. There is the view, driving in your car and maintaining the ideal image of Maine.”

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