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Our top 10 moments of 2020

As this very odd year comes to a close, let’s celebrate the large and small ways our community helped us protect the health of Casco Bay in 2020. Here are our top ten for the year:

1.) On December 2, the Maine Climate Council released its four-year Climate Action Plan, “Maine Won’t Wait.” We are heartened that the plan sets a roadmap for achieving carbon neutrality in Maine by 2045 and includes important mitigation measures to help coastal communities adapt to looming changes.

2.) Our volunteer Water Reporters were chosen as CommUNITY Champions. More than 240 volunteers are helping us keep watch over the health of the Bay.

3.) Gulf of Maine Poet Gary Lawless wrote the poem, “For Casco Bay, For Us,” in honor of our 30th anniversary. You can read the poem here and hear Gary read it at our Celebrating Water event in July, hosted by Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell.

4.) The South Portland City Council passed a groundbreaking fertilizer ordinance to promote soil health and to protect Casco Bay from nitrogen pollution.

5.) In October, Staff Scientist Mike Doan and Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca shared what they saw on the Bay this field season during What Casco Bay is Telling Us: A Casco Bay Matters Event.  Ivy also hosted a Casco Bay Matters event earlier this year about the Maine Climate Council.

6.) Knack Factory made this short documentary about our work in honor of our 30th anniversary. If you liked that film, watch this behind the scenes montage about how it was made!

7.) We were delighted that Royal River Conservation Trust selected Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell and Friends of Casco Bay as recipients of their Conservation Champion Award.

8.) On Facebook, this huge lion’s mane jellyfish and this beautiful rainbow were our two most shared images from this year.

9.) We launched the public phase of our $1.5 million Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund. We are now less than $15,000 from crossing the finish line! And we will soon be launching two more continuous monitoring stations, thanks to the Fund!

10.) While we couldn’t celebrate our 30th anniversary in person, we were honored to have these community partners reflect on our success over the past three decades. We also took a trip down memory lane by scrolling through this timeline of our biggest victories and milestones.

We look forward to keeping you updated in the New Year. Thank you for being a Friend of Casco Bay.

More good news for the Bay

Nuisance algal blooms, such as the one seen this summer along the Fore River in South Portland, can be caused by excess nitrogen. These blooms can degrade water quality and create conditions that worsen coastal acidification.

Casco Bay received an early holiday gift: the City of South Portland passed an ordinance to restrict the use of fertilizers in order to encourage soil health and reduce nitrogen pollution into our coastal waters.

Friends of Casco Bay applauds South Portland for taking this first-in-Maine step to protect our marine resources. The ordinance, which updates the City’s groundbreaking pesticide regulations, was passed on November 17. Any fertilizers used must be organic and free from synthetic chemicals, and a soil test is request before any use is allowed. There are special provisions for high performance such as playing fields, and new construction. The ordinance focuses on best practices for promoting soil health.

South Portland began working on this ordinance because nitrogen, which is found in lawn care fertilizers, can be washed downstream into the Bay. Once in marine water, excess nitrogen can cause nuisance and harmful algal blooms, which degrade water quality and create conditions that worsen coastal acidification. Friends of Casco Bay’s water quality data, including sampling for Total Nitrogen and pesticides, have been pivotal for helping the city understand the need to limit the use of lawn care chemicals.

South Portland’s City Council appointed Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell to the Fertilizer Working Group, which was tasked with drafting the protections. For a year-and-a-half, Cathy served alongside local residents, city officials, and landscaping business owners, to develop the ordinance.

“This is great news for the Casco Bay! South Portland has shown tremendous leadership in its efforts to protect our marine resources,” says Cathy, reflecting on the Working Group’s effort. “Whenever we hit a roadblock in the drafting of the ordinance, work group members found a way forward by reminding ourselves of the need protect the health of the Bay and the importance of healthy soils, especially in light of climate change.”

While South Portland’s fertilizer ordinance is the first of its kind in the state, we hope it will not be the last. Local ordinances such as this can lead to changes at regional and statewide levels. The City’s pesticide ordinance, for example, has been used as a template by other municipalities in Maine, including Portland.

As a Friend of the Bay, you probably know that we launched our BayScaping program nearly 20 years ago to help residents and businesses grow green lawns that can help keep Casco Bay blue. We have worked with local residents, Master Gardeners, landscape professionals, and state agencies to encourage the use of ecological approaches to lawn care rather than depending on fertilizers and pesticides. As BayScaping has taken root in our communities, more towns around the Bay have considered ordinances to reduce lawn care chemicals.

Helping municipalities develop ordinances is just one of the many ways Friends of Casco Bay is working to limit nitrogen pollution in the Bay. We continue to work with federal, state, and local officials to reduce sewer overflows, address stormwater pollution, and enforce the Bay’s No Discharge Area status.

Here’s the video from “Visual Storytelling and Casco Bay”

We had a blast hosting Visual Storytelling and Casco Bay: A Conversation with Knack Factory. Here is a video of the event, for those of you who were unable to attend live or would like to rewatch.

What struck us, as we spoke with Alex Steed and Lindsey Heald about Knack Factory’s process for telling stories, is how collaboratively they work together and with their clients. As an organization that values collaboration and community, we are delighted to count them as Friends of the Bay.

Here are two key moments that you may want to check out:

Here is Working With You to Keep Casco Bay Blue, the short documentary Knack Factory made in honor of our 30th anniversary.

Here is a behind-the-scenes montage of the week Knack Factory spent with our staff and volunteers as they filmed our documentary. Consider this 4½-minute clip from the event as a big Thank You to all those who made this documentary possible: Lindsey Heald, Thomas Starkey, and Tadin Brown of Knack Factory, volunteers Tony and Hilary Jessen and Joan Benoit Samuelson, LightHawk and their volunteer pilot Jim Schmidt, and Handy Boat.

If you want to see more of Knack Factory’s work, head over to their website.

Thank you to Knack Factory and TD Bank for making our event a success.

Sponsored by

Behinds the scenes of the making of our film

Here is a behind-the-scenes montage of the week Knack Factory spent with our staff and volunteers as they filmed our documentary. Consider this 4½-minute clip from the event as a big Thank You to all those who made this documentary possible: Lindsey Heald, Thomas Starkey, and Tadin Brown of Knack Factory, volunteers Tony and Hilary Jessen and Joan Benoit Samuelson, LightHawk and their volunteer pilot Jim Schmidt, and Handy Boat.

You can see our film here.

Good news for Maine and for Casco Bay

We have exciting news! Maine’s Climate Action Plan “Maine Won’t Wait” was released on Tuesday. The plan is a four-year road map for the state to follow as we work to address the causes and impacts of climate change.

I serve on the Coastal and Marine Working Group of the Maine Climate Council, and Friends of Casco Bay spent hundreds of hours working on coastal-related aspects of the plan. Media reports have focused on the parts of the plan aimed at reducing carbon emissions and achieving carbon neutrality in Maine by 2045. The plan also includes important mitigation measures to help our communities adapt to looming changes. We are impressed and pleased with the Mills’ administration’s commitment to addressing the causes and consequences of climate change. Here is a link to the plan:  https://www.maine.gov/future/sites/maine.gov.future/files/inline-files/MaineWontWait_December2020.pdf

Here are some highlights from the Climate Action Plan in relation to Casco Bay:

Establish a monitoring network and Coastal and Marine Information Exchange (pages 79-81 of the plan)
The information exchange will help municipal and regional officials make decisions based on the best available science and projections. For example, infrastructure should be built with an understanding of sea level rise projections. The information exchange model builds upon and likely will incorporate the voluntary Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification (MOCA) partnership that we helped establish and coordinate. MOCA will meet next week to discuss its role in helping the State achieve its climate action goals. The plan also seeks to establish a statewide monitoring network by 2024. We expect this network to build upon existing public-private monitoring networks, including our seasonal monitoring and Continuous Monitoring Stations. Others, including the Wells Reserve and the Department of Marine Resources, already are consulting with our Staff Scientist Mike Doan as they develop their ocean acidification monitoring stations.

Assess and protect our blue carbon stocks for carbon sequestration and to help our coast provide healthy habitat and climate resiliency (pages 78-79)
We are very excited by this goal. “Blue carbon stocks” include vital habitat including coastal salt marshes, seagrass beds, and seaweeds. These resources not only store carbon, but also are critical for a healthy Casco Bay. These environments provide nursery grounds and habitat; they also can absorb storm surges better than man-made structures.

Revise Maine’s coastal land use laws to consider climate change (page 87)
We look forward to working with the State to revise its stormwater laws and regulations and other land use laws in the coastal zone. Without these changes, we cannot prepare for and mitigate the consequences of climate change.

Foster nature-based solutions (page 87)
Protecting and restoring Maine’s valuable coastal resources are critically important to adapting to climate change. If we restore natural water flows with right-sized culverts, plan for marsh migration, restore and protect coastal wetlands and dunes, the benefits will be invaluable. We need to retain as much of our current coastal resources as possible and help our coastal environments and people adapt to climate change.

We appreciate Governor Mills’ leadership and commitment to the climate crisis, at a time when we are all coping with a second crisis—the pandemic.

We will continue our commitment at Friends of Casco Bay to reducing the causes of climate change and to addressing its consequences. We are about to expand our array of Continuous Monitoring Stations in the Bay, and we are elated at the timing of this effort. Data from these stations will deepen not only our understanding of what we will need to do to protect Casco Bay, but more broadly may be of benefit to all of coastal Maine. We look forward to working with the Department of Environmental Protection and others in helping Maine reshape coastal regulations. We expect to be very actively engaged in this effort.

We will keep you updated as we continue to work with state agencies, partner organizations, and community members to help implement the plan.

Our Statement on Environmental Justice

Casco Bay belongs to everyone.

This is more than just a phrase to those of us who work at Friends of Casco Bay.

We work to improve and protect the health of this special place for everyone. We are committed to creating a culture and practices that integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into our work.

To work towards that goal, we have been deepening our conversations with one another as a group and as individuals, about the intersections of environmentalism and social justice. This includes, in part, expanding our understanding about systemic racism, tyranny, and violence in our country and our community.

The inequities in our society cannot be separated from the climate crisis, a key focus of our work. Vulnerable and marginalized populations, including black people, people of color, indigenous people, people living in poverty, women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities have disproportionately experienced the brunt of pollution and the effects of climate change. These environmental injustices arise from inequalities and uneven power structures, including structural racism.

We stand in solidarity with the activists and organizations who are leading the call for justice and accountability. We are supporting efforts that recognize environmental justice and are aimed at ensuring equal access to clean waters. We oppose efforts that deny that right.

This is a long-overdue moment for communities to come together and change behaviors and systems. This includes listening and learning. This requires acting to ensure Casco Bay and its watershed are improved and protected with and for all people. We acknowledge that we need to expand our capacity to foster diverse viewpoints, and we commit to continuing our work on this.

We are not experts at confronting the depth of injustices experienced in our nation. We know we will miss the mark sometimes as we move toward more inclusive and equitable practices and culture. We invite you to keep us accountable by letting us know when we do. This will help us all learn and improve together.

Most sincerely,

Cathy, Jeff, Ivy, Mike, Sara, Sarah, and Will

What Casco Bay is telling us

We had a lively and informative What Casco Bay is telling us: a Casco Bay Matters Event as more than 100 Friends joined us for the conversation. Here is a video of the event, for those of you who were not able to attend live or would like to relisten.

If you don’t have time to watch the entire event, here are some key moments that you may want to check out:

In this 3½ minute clip, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca shares her observations on what the Bay was like during this very strange year.

Staff Scientist Mike Doan shares temperature data from our Continuous Monitoring Station (2½ minutes).

Mike explains how we can get a sense of the productivity of the base of the food chain and offers his thoughts as to why our waters have been so clear this season (3 minutes).

Ivy thanks our volunteer Water Reporters for the many ways they have helped us keep watch on the health of the Bay (2½ minutes).

Ivy reflects on what we must do to confront the impacts of climate change on the Bay (2 ½ minutes).

Last but not least, Cathy, Ivy, and Mike explain how our Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund is a game-changer for our work (4 minutes). [We are delighted that we have raised 94% of our $1.5 million goal for the Fund, with the help of many of you. If you have not yet made a contribution to the Fund, help us past the finish line!]

Join us for What is Casco Bay telling us?

This year has been unprecedented. Casco Bay is exhibiting changing conditions that may impact our community, marine heritage, and our economy in years to come.

Join Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca, and Staff Scientist Mike Doan for a conversation about what we have been seeing out on the Bay this year, what our data are telling us, and what we, as a community and a state, need to do to address some of the impacts of climate change on the Bay.

On Wednesday, October 21, grab your lunch, log on to Zoom, and join the conversation.

You must register to join this event. We would love you to join us.

Register Now

What: What Casco Bay Is Telling Us: A Casco Bay Matters Event

When: Wednesday, October 21, 12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m.

This event will take place via Zoom. We will send you instructions for joining the event after you register.

Check out our CommUNITY Champions

Want a lift? Watch this! (2 minutes)

We have long thought of our volunteers as champions. Now much of Southern Maine does, too.

WMTW News 8’s anchor, Steve Minich recognized our volunteer Water Reporters as CommUNITY Champions in late August. You can watch the two-minute CommUNITY Champion segment and hear more about the efforts of our volunteers here.

Steve gives a shout out to all 229 of our Water Reporters for “being willing to spend a few hours a week getting their feet wet for the cause.”

If you are interested in becoming a Water Reporter, slyman [at] cascobay [dot] org“>email Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman and join the team.

Donate to Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund

Friends of Casco Bay created the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund to be used over the next ten years to understand how Casco Bay is being affected by climate change. We are launching and maintaining three oceanographic Continuous Monitoring Stations at three coastal sites around the Bay to collect data on water quality conditions. Communicating those changing conditions to our community is paramount for advocating for policies and actions needed to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change. You can read all about this work and the fund to support it here