About FOSI

As our mission states, FOSI is committed to the dual purposes of protecting the natural & cultural resources of Sears Island and maintaining public accessibility for recreation and education. To this end FOSI accepted the responsibility for stewardship, in partnership with Maine Coast Heritage Trust when the Conservation Easement was placed on 601 acres in 2009.

Currently, FOSI is concentrating on building active membership and implementing our Strategic Plan for the future.

Sears Island map DOT275w

(click to enlarge map)

WHAT THE CONSERVATION EASEMENT PROVIDES

  • Several miles of shoreline to explore — sand, rocks, ledges
  • Freshwater streams and wetlands
  • Vernal pools and tidal pools
  • Forests and fern meadows, wildflowers and berries
  • 168 species of birds sighted — a stop along migratory flyway
  • Fishing, clamming
  • Hiking, snowshoeing on peripheral and wooded inland trails
  • Scenic vistas of Penobscot Bay
  • Picnicking, swimming
  • Bike riding
  • Kayaking
  • Family outings
  • Discovering history preserved in stone walls and old foundations
  • Special features:
    • Habitat for 28 mammal species, 9 amphibian and reptile species
    • Diverse ecosystems providing a living lab for environmental studies
    • Glacial erratics and huge old trees
    • Accessibility to non-boating public

The road to this point has had many obstacles to overcome and as a grassroots organization we learned that with patience, persistence and a lot of educating (ourselves and others) we could make our voices heard.

Late in 2003 word got out that siting a Liquid Natural Gas terminal on Sears Island was being considered. Small groups of concerned citizens and organizations began questioning and researching as much information as was available. They came together early in 2004 as a coalition to combine their strengths and direct them towards specific “campaigns” in opposition to LNG. Under the name Protect Sears Island they held public meetings, seminars and rallies, distributed educational literature, wrote letters to officials in Augusta and letters and op-ed pieces to newspapers. And Governor Baldacci paid attention. He honored a promise he had made earlier when the town of Harpswell fought an LNG proposal, that he would not force a terminal on a town that strongly opposed it; and Searsport opposed it by a 10 to 1 margin.

Some members of the PSI coalition had been involved in battles against earlier industrial development proposals for Sears Island and felt sure that there would be others every 5 or 10 years, so Friends of Sears Island became the new coalition, still grassroots, but fortunate to have strong support and leadership from Coastal Mountains Land Trust, Islesboro Islands Trust and Sierra Club, all determined to find a permanent solution for the future of the island.

FOSI became incorporated and received 501(C)3 non-profit status in 2006. In the same year, Governor Baldacci called for a Sears Island Planning Initiative for the purpose of resolving Sears Island’s future. When the small, one-sided Steering Committee convened for its first meeting FOSI and friends arrived in force and convinced the panel that we were entitled to seats as well, and suddenly the number rose to more than forty members. Thus began a year of long, tense, frustrating negotiations that closed with more ground lost than we had intended to allow, but with enough saved to have made the effort worthwhile. For the next year and a half a smaller Joint Use Planning Committee, which included some FOSI members, worked out details like boundaries, holder and conditions of the Conservation Easement, and a long list of what would not be allowed on the remaining 336 acres entrusted to oversight by Maine Department of Transposition.

In 2009, with 601 acres preserved under the easement held by Maine Coast Heritage Trust, FOSI was designated the base for volunteer stewards.  Soon trails were being restored and improved, steps to the beach were installed and an informational kiosk was built.  A year later a Natural Resources Inventory was conducted on the preserved property.  Funding for these activities was raised from private donations and grants awarded.

With additional grant funds FOSI continued its mission of stewardship by hosting educational programs and nature themed walks. The membership began to grow and the message of low impact use took hold. Students and faculties from area schools and colleges were introduced to the diversity of resources on the island and began to participate in work and class projects. Now Searsport High School offers an outdoor classroom as part of its curriculum.  An Outreach Coordinator was contracted for a ten-month period in 2014, during which time she further developed the Natural History series and strengthened partnerships collaborating with FOSI on events.  Our website and database are being up-graded and up-dated.

The forbidding chain link and concrete barriers at the entry to the island, often a deterrent to visitors, have now been replaced by neat bollards and a spruced up gate, thanks to a collaborative effort spearheaded by FOSI and including Maine Department of Transportation, Department of Agriculture, Conservation &Forestry and the Town of Searsport.

FOSI continues to ensure public access to Sears Island’s amazing resources . . . . . . .

–  Marietta Ramsdell