NORWAY – The public interest forum this month at Fair Share Commons will feature Lee Dassler, executive director of the Western Foothills Land Trust, on protecting land and the land trust movement.
The forum opens at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, at 443 Main St.
The Western Foothills Land Trust was founded in 1987 by residents committed to land and natural resource protection in the greater Oxford Hills area. The Trust is a member of Maine Land Trust Network and the national Land Trust Alliance, managing about 5,500 acres in 10 towns. One of the parcels is 150 acres of the Roberts Farm Preserve on Pike's Hill in Norway.
Dassler said the Western Foothills Land Trust has a total of 5,469 protected acres, including land that is either owned by the Trust, such as the 1,250-acre parcel on South Pond in Buckfield, or has been placed under easement, such as 690 acres along the Crooked River in Harrison.
Lands protected by conservation easements are still owned by the easement donor, who have generally donated their rights for future subdivision and development of their lands, enabling the land to remain in its current use as agricultural land or as working forest land.
The easements are specific documents, created by the landowners and the Trust working together to accommodate the foreseeable needs of the landowner. The Western Foothills Land Trust does not require public access as a mandatory part of conservation easements, she said.
Fee-owned lands are lands which the Trust owns outright. The Land Trust is steadily working to provide public trails on the fee-owned lands.
Dassler will talk about how the Trust does its work and suggest ways landowners and the community at large can benefit from taking these protective land measures.
Additionally, the forum will look at questions such as the effect of protective land trusts on private land owners, the removal of the land from the public tax roll and who should own this land, considering the benefits that can be found underneath its topsoil.
The public is encouraged to attend and present ideas, share experiences and ask questions. Refreshments will be served.
The monthly forums began in the late 1990s and topics cover a wide range of issues.
“It's anything involving social, political, economical content,” said Tom Whitney of Norway, a retired pediatrician who spearheads the forums.
Previous topics have included: food sovereignty and hunger in the world; the film “Freedom Riders" and the Civil Rights movement; the "Salt of the Earth" strike in New Mexico; and the 50-year trade embargo against Cuba by the United States.