Last summer, Friends of Sears Island (FOSI) developed and implemented a comprehensive stewardship plan for the 601-acre Conservation Area on Sears Island, thanks to grants from the Maine Community Foundation, the Davis Conservation Foundation, and the Town of Searsport. Aleta McKeage and Cloe Chunn of GreenWays Center and Consulting Group led this ambitious effort, with help from college interns, Belfast High School and Unity College students, and FOSI volunteers, logging over 120 hours in the field.
Field managers surveyed the island for invasive plants and with the help of students and volunteers, removed a significant portion of the established plants, eradicating most purple loosestrife and oriental bittersweet from the area, and also eliminating many single bushes and patches of Japanese barberry. Garden valerian and purple loosestrife were completely removed from the sensitive coastal dune grassland area, which is a rare plant community in Maine. Biological and sensitive features monitoring, mapping, and the developing of resources and tools for “citizen scientists” were also components of this project.
The observations made this summer and other data formed the basis for creating guides to birds, wildlife and plants on the island, which include checklists, printable picture guides and field journals, now accessible on the Friends of Sears Island website. Tools for reporting observations and submitting photos are also available on the website, as well as an Inaturalist project that can be used to submit observations using a Smartphone. As people visit the island and report noteworthy sightings of flora and fauna, FOSI hopes to accumulate a thorough record of changes on the island over time.
This intensive monitoring and management program will continue to provide many opportunities in the coming years for those who care about Sears Island to help protect the island and the plants and animals that reside there.