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Strategic Plan 2023-2028

Friends of Casco Bay Strategic Plan 2023-2028

A printable version of this Strategic Plan is available here.

Our Mission
Friends of Casco Bay improves and protects the environmental health of Casco Bay.

How we meet our mission
Friends of Casco Bay uses an integrated approach to tackle the largest threats to the health of the Bay. As home to the Casco Baykeeper, we act as the eyes, ears, and voice of the Bay. We meet our mission through science, advocacy, and community engagement. Through our Science Program, we collect data and observations on our waters and put these data in context to other research being done in the Bay. Our Baykeeping Program is guided both by this science and community input as we advocate for — and build partnerships for —  clean water. Through our engagement efforts, we encourage stewardship and provide meaningful ways for community members to take part in protecting the health of the Bay.

Our Vision Over the Next Five Years
By 2028, Casco Bay, through extensive community outreach and engagement, is familiar to a larger and more diverse audience both near shore and in the watershed. We are encouraging people to get outside to enjoy the Bay, building stronger attachments to it. Community members are eager to help protect the waters they call home. Communities in the watershed are more familiar with our work to keep the Bay as clean and productive as possible.

Friends of Casco Bay is taking a holistic view of the health of the Bay. Casco Bay connects the rivers that flow into it to the greater Gulf of Maine. These waters are for many a source of inspiration and solace. They are home to countless sea life above and below the water. They are also a major contributor to the economic vitality of our region.

The largest threat to the health of the Bay is climate change, the long-term shift in temperatures and weather patterns caused by the burning of fossil fuels. These changes are leading to acidifying waters, higher water temperatures, and rising seas. In addition, land-based activities are leading to coastal acidification, excess nitrogen, and stormwater pollution.

Collaborating with our many partners, we continue to improve the scientific methods that help us better understand the state of the Bay and more effectively respond to these threats and to emerging needs of the Bay. We are a widely recognized leader in the field of marine water monitoring, and we share our data and expertise with others.

Respect at the local, state, and national levels for the quality of our science allows our Casco Baykeeper to advocate effectively for permits and laws that protect and improve the quality of Casco Bay’s marine water and of the many tributaries that feed the estuary.

We are more imaginative and nimble in how we offer ways for our many dedicated volunteers to become engaged in caring for the Bay. Community members recognize that they need to work locally while also addressing factors that are beyond the Bay’s boundaries, such as supporting efforts to address the causes and consequences of climate change.

Our new offices reflect the changing nature of the workplace while offering our highly professional and experienced staff a comfortable, practical and safe environment to do their work. Our new and expanded lab reflects our commitment to improving our science work.

As unexpected threats to the Bay arise, Friends of Casco Bay has the flexibility, staffing, and support needed to assess problems, pivot, and seek solutions.

We continue to be a fiscally sound and responsible organization, working creatively within our means while remaining realistic about financial and demographic challenges that may occur.

Our Purpose Over the Next Five Years
The purpose of Friends of Casco Bay is to be a leader in protecting the health of Casco Bay through sound science, advocacy, and by broadening support for clean water. We strive to protect and improve the health of the Bay and its tributaries for the benefit of a healthy ecosystem and for all those who live, work and play in the watershed now and for generations to come. We recognize that there are underserved and underrepresented populations in our watershed; we are applying an environmental justice lens to our efforts and working to diversify our board, staff, membership, and volunteer base. We increasingly recognize that problems — and solutions — to the Bay’s health necessitate working with partners deeper into our watershed and up and down the coast. As climate change continues to affect the Bay and exacerbates existing threats to our coastal waters, we will work for solutions at the national, state, and local levels to address, mitigate, and adapt to looming changes.

Our Values
Our reputation is built upon our collaborative approach to problem-solving. When conflicts arise in our work, we keep an open mind and value conversations with stakeholders. Ultimately, we will always stand up for the health of the Bay. We are impact-driven and results-oriented. We recognize the diversity of our community, and we strive for inclusion for all. As stewards of the Bay, we operate with integrity, decency, and transparency. We practice financial responsibility and look for strategies that are both practical and cost-effective.,

Strategic Goals 2023-2028

  1. Goal: we will track changing conditions and respond to climate change to maintain the health and resiliency of Casco Bay and its watershed.
  • We recognize that climate change will continue to affect our waters. We will continue working on climate change at the local, state, and national levels. We will advocate for solutions to the causes and consequences of climate change.
  • This work will include climate mitigation — advocacy to reduce greenhouse gases and increase green energy production — and climate adaptation — support for how to address rising seas, warming waters, and other looming changes.
  • As part of our work to decrease dependence on fossil fuels and to protect the Bay, we will advocate for the responsible development of alternative energy sources, including offshore wind.
  • We will continue collecting data on how the Bay is changing, and communicate those changes to the public and to strategic partners.
  • We will adapt our work, strategies, and partners to respond to this existential threat.
  1. Goal: To reduce pollution into the Bay and protect water quality, we will continue work to address stormwater pollution, excess nitrogen, sewage overflows, and other major threats that emerge as we monitor the health of Casco Bay.
  • We will work to reduce this pollution through advocacy to enforce and tighten Clean Water Act permits, improving state laws and regulations, and by working at the local level with municipal partners.
  • We will work with partners in the region to engage and educate the public on better land-use practices.
  • We will track emerging issues and issues including PFAS, increased development, aquaculture siting, and marine debris/microplastics.
  • We will expect the unexpected. We will respond to community concerns and new threats to the Bay’s health. This may include collecting new types/parameters of data on the health of the Bay and assessing new policy initiatives.
  1. Goal: we will improve how we collect data and how we measure the health of Casco Bay.
  • We will continue to collect data on the health of the Bay and the rivers that flow into it by using Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Environmental Protection-approved quality assurance plans and proven technology. We will stay on top of changing technology and supply chain issues to ensure that we are collecting scientifically accurate data that track trends over time.
  • In order to better understand the health of the Bay, we will work with partners to understand how our data fit in with others’ research on eelgrass habitat, critical species, invasive species, and other vital environmental indicators. We will share our data readily with partners, decision-makers, researchers, and community members.
  • We will use scientific data and observations — including our volunteers’ and our partners’ — in our advocacy efforts.
  1. Goal: To better meet our mission, we will expand our outreach and community engagement efforts and become more representative of the watershed.
  • We will expand our partnerships with river advocates in the watershed and with other coastal and marine-oriented organizations and agencies up and down Maine’s coast.
  • We will build new relationships with nontraditional allies and deepen our relationships with existing longtime partners.
  • We will become more imaginative and creative in ways to engage people in our science, advocacy, and stewardship efforts. We will provide meaningful ways for people to engage in our mission, leverage volunteer strengths, and support policies that reduce pollution and increase climate resiliency.
  • We will work to get the next generations involved in our efforts. This is crucial to maintaining our organization into the future.
  • We will be open to new ways to work together, new partnerships, and mergers.
  • We will conduct our work through the lenses of inclusion and environmental justice. We will work to ensure all members of the community, including those who have been historically marginalized, have a say in the decisions that affect the health of our waters.
  • We will make our data accessible to the public through infographics, stories, and easy-to-understand analyses.
  • We will regularly share relevant work, stories, data, and partnerships with traditional media and social media to expand the general public’s understanding of issues that affect our waters and to provide meaningful ways people can get involved in our work. We will explore undertaking a watershed-wide marketing campaign.
  1. Goal: We will continue to evolve and grow the health of our organization.
  • We will maintain an even keel financially by sustainably growing our budget and keeping up with the cost of living. In addition to raising operating funds, we will identify a new, major fundraising campaign to help continue our financial sustainability.
  • We will locate and move to new office space that meets the needs of our organization, including adequate laboratory space and workstations for all staff.
  • Just as biodiversity is a sign of a healthy ecosystem, a diverse board, staff, and membership is a sign of organizational health. We will work on an intentional and continuous process to build a respectful and diverse organization.

Tracking Our Progress
Our annual progress toward our strategic goals will be tracked in our annual operating plans. Given the nature of our work, some tracking will be narrative and qualitative. Other metrics, such as water quality data, financial and fundraising efforts, and volunteer hours are extremely specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, are being tracked to help monitor our efforts over the next five years:

Goal 1: Addressing the causes and consequences of climate change

  • Water quality conditions and trends
  • Advocacy events, policy goals and achievements, including work on federal level, state climate action goals, and local level work: to what degree did we help mitigate climate change (carbon dioxide reductions, carbon storage, and green power initiatives) and to what degree did we help communities in the watershed and along the coast adapt to changes

Goal 2: Reducing stormwater, nitrogen pollution, and other threats

  • Data from our Science Program
  • Data from state, local, and private sources
  • Updates on Clean Water Act permits, rule changes, legislative action, ordinances, and other advocacy efforts.

Goal 3: Improving our data collection and technology

  • Updated quality assurance protocols
  • New technology in Continuous Monitoring Stations
  • Data analysis, charts, graphs
  • Reports on accuracy of our data from partners

Goal 4: Expanding our outreach and community engagement

  • Current collaborations, alliances, and partnerships in watershed and along the coast, specifically noting new partnerships
  • Volunteer metrics, including numbers of volunteers (new and returning), projects/programs, hours, data collected, observations recorded
  • Online communication metrics, including website visits, social media engagements, email open rates
  • Media stories generated, including outlet and date
  • Attendance numbers and attendee evaluations of our events, including field trips, speaking engagements, annual meetings, film festivals, house parties, and community events
  • Community engagement efforts, including programs, communications, calls to action, and their results

Goal 5: Evolving and Growing the Organization

  • Financial and development metrics, including revenues, expenses, assets and liabilities, numbers of donors by category (individual, corporate, foundation, government, nonprofit), fees for service (pumpout), giving pyramids, and financial and fundraising trends
  • Demographic data on staff, board, volunteers, membership, and communities we serve
  • New office space

Closing Summation
Friends of Casco Bay is working with communities along the coast as well as with partners throughout the watershed to reduce pollution and increase climate resiliency. We recognize that the cleaner the waters flowing into our coastal waters are, the healthier Casco Bay will be. Guided by science, environmental justice, and common decency, we are building partnerships and engaging the community in meaningful work that will benefit the environmental health of the Bay.

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.

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.

30 years of success protecting the Bay

We were delighted to have more than 80 Friends of the Bay join us for our 30th Anniversary Members Annual Meeting on June 16. As Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell said during the event, we only wish we could have held it in person.

If you missed the event — or if you want to re-watch your favorite parts — we are providing you with links to the following videos:

In this 8 minute video, the Casco Bay region’s Congressional Delegation, including Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, share reflections on what 30 years of Friends of Casco Bay means to them and to our community.

In this 8 minute video, Cathy describes how our work to protect the health of the Bay continues. We may be socially distant from one another right now, but we remain connected to the Bay. Hear how our work continues.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, in this video Cathy shares our plans over the next decade and beyond to help our community address looming threats, and she announces the formation of the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund for Technology, Science, and Community Engagement.

During the Annual Meeting portion of the event, Steve Bushey and Mark Green were elected to their first terms to the Board of Directors, Malcolm Poole was re-elected to his second term, and Joan Benoit Samuelson and Tollef Olson were elected to their third terms. You can find the complete list of our Board of Directors here.

Stay tuned. Soon we will announce how you can take part in our second 30th anniversary event, which will be held in late July.

Thank you for your support over the past 30 years and for joining us on our voyage toward a healthier, more protected Bay in the decades to come.

And how is your summer going?

Summer is going swimmingly here at Friends of Casco Bay, and we have a lot of good news to share:

  • Our priority legislative bill to create a state-level Climate Change and Ocean Acidification Council was incorporated nearly word-for-word into the Governor’s comprehensive Climate Change Council bill. An Act to Promote Clean Energy Jobs and to Establish the Maine Climate Council passed with strong bipartisan support. In recognition of her yeoman’s work on this issue, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca was invited to attend the bill signing by Governor Janet Mills on June 26th.


  • Our water quality sampling season is well underway, as we continue to add to our long-term dataset at 22 shoreside and deepwater sites around the Bay. You may see Research Associate Mike Doan and Casco Baykeeper Ivy making the rounds by land and by sea every few weeks from April through October.


  • Photo by Kevin Morris

    Since early June, Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell has been attending bi-weekly meetings of the South Portland Fertilizer Working Group to assist the City in drafting a fertilizer ordinance.


  • July 20 marks the third anniversary of the launch of our Continuous Monitoring Station in Yarmouth. Our Monitoring Station is fondly nicknamed the “Cage of Science” because its high-tech sensors are housed inside a transformed lobster trap. The instruments measure temperature, salinity, oxygen, pH, and carbon dioxide.
    Photo by Kevin Morris

    Together, they collect data once an hour, every hour, year round.  At this time of year, Mike has to scrape off a new array of marine hitchhikers whenever he hauls up the Cage of Science to download data.


  • ‘Tis the season to think about what not to put on your lawn! With five workshops behind her, Associate Director Mary Cerullo has scheduled another five BayScaping presentations for August and beyond. She is happy to talk with neighborhood groups about green yards and a blue Bay.


  • There has been such a demand by community groups to volunteer for coastal cleanups and storm drain stenciling projects that Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman and summer intern Alexis Burns have been very busy. They already have hosted seven events with 106 participants who collected an estimated 238 lbs. of trash and stenciled 238 storm drains!


  • Photo by Kevin Morris

    Our new pumpout boat, Headmaster, was launched on June 10th to pump raw sewage from the marine toilets of recreational boats. Captain Jim Splude, our congenial pumpout boat coordinator, can go about his business more efficiently now with a new boat that has more than twice the holding capacity of the old one.


  • Our Water Reporter volunteer project is expanding as we hoped and planned. Nearly 40 enthusiastic volunteers attended our Water Reporter training on June 24. Volunteers continue to sign up to keep watch over specific areas of the Bay.
    July 10 was the first anniversary of Friends of Casco Bay’s launch of the Water Reporter app. To date, 162 volunteers in this observing network have made more than 500 posts. We call that a great start!

Volunteer Appreciation & Annual Member’s Meeting

Friends of Casco Bay’s 2016 Volunteer Appreciation Celebration & 2018 Annual Members Meeting

Volunteer Appreciation Celebration
& 2018 Annual Members Meeting

Thank you all for a great event! You can see more about our Citizen Steward awardees and the photos here: https://www.cascobay.org/2018/01/25/volunteers-great-service-casco-bay/

Join us as we recognize those who help us protect the health of Casco Bay. We will provide the updated Casco Bay Health Index based on data collected by volunteer Citizen Stewards over the past 25 years, and we will share new program directions.

When: Tuesday, January 23, 2018, 5:30-8 p.m.
5:30 Hors d’oeuvres, cash bar, Program begins at 6:30

Our event is on for Tuesday, January 23! We have been watching the weather closely—the messy wintery mix will turn into rain and 40 degree weather by midday on Tuesday, January 23, and temps will stay in the 40s until well past our event.

Parking is easy and FREE at DiMillo’s—if you are driving with guests, you can drop your passengers off right at the ramp under the drive-thru overhang leading to the floating restaurant.

WhereDiMillo’s On the Water, 25 Long Wharf, Portland, ME 04101
Free parking while at event.

Donation to attend is appreciated, not required. Suggested donation: $10 per person
If making a donation to attend this event, RSVP here. 

If you want to RSVP without making a donation, email Sarah Lyman at slyman [at] cascobay [dot] org or call our office at (207) 799-8574.


Barry Sheff, Board Member Friends of Casco Bay

Community Connection: Barry Sheff

Barry Sheff, Board Member Friends of Casco Bay
Barry Sheff, Board Member Friends of Casco Bay Photo credit: Kevin Morris

Friends of Casco Bay’s Board members are key partners in protecting Casco Bay.
Here’s how, in their own words:

Barry Sheff: “I drive a Prius and explain to the kids why it’s not a truck.”

Barry is an engineer with Woodard & Curran. “I like to solve problems. That’s what I like about Friends of Casco Bay. It’s trying to prevent and solve problems on the Bay. The work they are doing to support pesticide bans is hugely important to help municipalities. We need more catch basin stenciling. It’s education, education, education, but cities shouldn’t be relying on Friends to do it all. Doing education is part of a municipal obligation under the Clean Water Act.

You can see how other community members are partnering with us to protect the Bay on our Community Connection page.

Derek Pelletier, Board Member Friends of Casco Bay

Community Connection: Derek Pelletier

Derek Pelletier, Board Member Friends of Casco Bay
Derek Pelletier, Board Member Friends of Casco Bay

Friends of Casco Bay’s Board members are key partners in protecting Casco Bay. Here’s how, in their own words:

Derek Pelletier: “We don’t preach about what you can do. We prefer to lead by example.

Derek is an aquatic ecologist, specializing in water quality issues. We first met Derek when he offered to help enter water quality data for Friends of Casco Bay more than a decade ago.

Derek’s scientific knowledge informs his approach to caring for his local environment.“When I started in grad school, l liked thinking about systems on a watershed basis, taking the ‘downstream’ view. My background in whole systems thinking informs my awareness that “It all ends up in the ocean.’”

Derek and his wife Maryann have shared that understanding with their children Levi and Charlotte. They all bike everywhere from their Deering neighborhood in Portland. They do own a car, but even in rain or snow, Derek rarely drives it to Board meetings.

You can see how other community members are partnering with us to protect the Bay on our Community Connection page.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, Friends of Casco Bay Board Member

Community Connection: Joan Benoit Samuelson

Joan Benoit Samuelson, Friends of Casco Bay Board Member
Joan Benoit Samuelson, Friends of Casco Bay Board Member

Friends of Casco Bay’s Board members are key partners in protecting Casco Bay.
Here’s how, in their own words:

Joan Benoit Samuelson:Having grown up in Cape Elizabeth near Casino Beach, spending many a summer on Cliff Island, and now living in Freeport with tidal frontage, I know that Casco Bay is changing. There is a lot of tangible evidence of climate change—an influx of invasive species, the decline of indigenous species, whether it’s due to green crabs or algae blooms caused by increased nitrogen.”

“Whatever the cause, can all pull an oar and do something to improve conditions in Casco Bay. We can make daily small changes, such as doing BayScaping, lawn care without using pesticides and fertilizers, and keeping stormwater from running off our yards and spaces.”

“It’s important to protect this resource. This place is a jewel. I realized early on that Casco Bay is connected to the world’s oceans when I threw a note in a bottle off Casino Beach (Cape Elizabeth), and it was picked up by a schoolteacher in England.”

“It’s a beautiful resource we all need to protect. Time and tide wait for no man—or woman. The time is now to take action.”

You can see how other community members are partnering with us to protect the Bay on our Community Connection page.