Otisfield resident Lee Dassler, left, accepts the 2024 Espy Land Heritage Award from Kate Stookey, president and CEO of Maine Coast Heritage Trust at the Maine Land Conservation Conference, held April 13 at Mt. Ararat Middle School in Topsham. Ryan Smith photo

TOPSHAM — Maine Coast Heritage Trust has named Otisfield resident Lee Dassler as recipient of the 2024 Espy Land Heritage Award, which recognizes an individual, organization, or coalition for exemplary conservation efforts in Maine.

Under Dassler’s leadership, Western Foothills Land Trust has conserved more than 9,000 acres of land across eight communities, securing public access for hiking, snowmobiling, fly-fishing, and more. The list of conservation successes includes the protection of over 2,500 acres of wildlife-rich forest and wetland habitats and more than 10 miles of frontage along the Crooked River, whose cold waters lure spawning salmon each year.

Over the past decade Robert’s Farm in Norway has become a four-season hub and WFLT’s signature preserve, with an attractive network of trails, vibrant community gardens, popular seasonal events, and informative educational offerings. Most recently, the land trust has been a partner in the effort to conserve more than 25,000 acres of the Chadbourne Family Tree Farms, ensuring traditional public access and sustainable forest management into the future.

In honoring past President Jay Espy with this award, MCHT’s board of directors created a fund that awards $5,000 per year to a conservation charity in honor of that year’s Espy Land Heritage Award winner. Dassler has chosen to direct the financial award to Western Foothills Land Trust and the McLaughlin Garden to honor two board presidents, Andrea Burns at the McLaughlin Garde, and Bob Van Nest at WFLT.


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