Paul Birdsall has been named the recipient of the 2012 Espy Land Heritage Award for his leadership in both local and statewide farmland conservation efforts spanning more than three decades.
This award is presented annually by Maine Coast Heritage Trust to an individual, organization, agency or coalition that has made outstanding contributions to land conservation in Maine while inspiring others. The award was made at the recent Maine Land Trust conference.
According to a press release, Birdsall, a resident of Penobscot, began working on farmland conservation issues in the 1970s, which led to his becoming a founding board member of both Blue Hill Heritage Trust and Maine Farmland Trust. At BHHT he started Farmland Forever, and at MFT, the Forever Farms program.
Through the Farmland Forever program, BHHT has conserved over 2,000 acres of farmland, including a conservation easement Birdsall donated on his own 383-acre Horsepower Farm, and conservation easements on two local farms that he purchased and resold to young farmers.
Maine Farmland Trust’s “Buy, Protect, Sell” program, modeled after Birdsall’s work, has lead to the conservation of 7,700 acres of farmland, and has resulted in farming opportunities for 34 farmers. Birdsall is still actively farming and has mentored many young farmers through a Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association apprenticeship program.
“There is no other single person in the State of Maine who has done more to advance the conservation of farmland by private non-profit land trusts at the local and state levels,” said MCHT president Tim Glidden in presenting the award.
“For three decades Paul has brought vision, tireless advocacy, hard work, clear thinking, sheer doggedness, and great personal generosity to farmland conservation efforts.” said Jim Dow, BHHT’s executive director, who nominated Birdsall for the award. “If every land trust were blessed with one person like Paul, how lucky we would all be.”
The award comes with a $5,000 grant, which the recipient can direct to an organization of his choice. Birdsall directed that it be split between the two organizations that he helped found, BHHT and MFT.