Maine Coast Heritage Trust and Its Partners are Working on Acadia’s Conservation Puzzle

In and around Acadia, passionate conservationists piece together connections to preserve wildlife habitats.

kayaking on Northeast Creek near Acadia National Park
Photo by Bridget Besaw

People come from around the world to visit Mount Desert Island and experience the renowned beauty of Acadia National Park. What they don’t see, though, are the many people working behind the scenes to connect the region’s natural habitats to each other and protect the integrity of landscapes that extend beyond park limits — boundaries that are not recognized by wildlife nor obvious to visitors.

In Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s first year, 1970, the conservation nonprofit partnered with Acadia National Park to help protect 30 islands in the area around Mount Desert Island from development. MCHT has continued to work with Acadia in the years since, while also fostering relationships with other organizations and landowners committed to keeping lands open and healthy. Across the Maine coast, MCHT holds more than 300 conservation easements — a voluntary agreement with private landowners — and owns and cares for more than 150 preserves that are free and open to the public, including 22 on or near Mount Desert Island.

MCHT senior project manager Misha Mytar says the ongoing relationship with Acadia is bolstered by connections between MCHT and other local conservation groups that help in protecting resources, both within and beyond where the National Park Service is authorized to acquire additional land for Acadia. The partnership has resulted in the addition of key parcels totalling over 400 acres, and conservation easements protecting roughly 12,000 acres.

The Seal Cove Pond Fishways Project illustrates MCHT’s cooperative approach. Seal Cove Pond, in Tremont, drains into Seal Cove via Seal Cove Brook, which has long been blocked up by dams, preventing alewives from reaching the pond to spawn — and alewives are an important food source for myriad wildlife and serve as bait for commercial fisheries. “After decades of land protection work we learned that there was restoration work to be done across multiple jurisdictions to improve the integrity of this amazing ecological resource,” Mytar says. MCHT launched the project in 2017 on land owned by both the town of Tremont and Acadia. Community members and state and federal agencies came together with the common goal of improving fish passage. Five years later, the construction of two naturalistic fishways was completed. “If you looked at a map, you would see Maine Coast Heritage Trust as owner of only a tiny canoe launch nearby,” Mytar says. “Through supporting partners, our impact in the area is much bigger.”

Similarly, MCHT is working with several partners to protect the Northeast Creek tidal estuary, in Bar Harbor, one of many projects that are a part of an initiative to save Maine’s marshes amid a changing climate. “It’s a beautiful place, and as an estuary landscape, it’s an important ecological area,” Mytar says. The entire marsh is within Acadia’s jurisdiction, but almost 80 percent of the watershed falls outside park boundaries — an area visible from Cadillac Mountain and surrounding peaks. Within the watershed is MCHT’s historic 128-acre Stone Barn Farm. Downeast Audubon owns and protects eight parcels of habitat for marsh birds that include belted kingfishers and great blue herons. MCHT also secured easements on several farmland properties within the watershed and is now working with Acadia and the town of Bar Harbor to renew efforts to monitor area water quality.

Schoodic Point
The stretch of land between the Schoodic Peninsula and Schoodic Mountain is undeveloped, but not yet entirely protected. Photo by Ken Woisard Photography

Over decades, MCHT has worked in partnership with the Frenchman Bay Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, and the state of Maine to conserve key stepping stones of land between the Schoodic District of Acadia on the Schoodic Peninsula, Donnell Pond Unit, a state-conserved area surrounding Schoodic Mountain and Tunk Lake — and beyond. Over 60 conservation projects have conserved more than 55,000 acres — work that has gone a long way to help protect that corridor. MCHT has played a role in three-quarters of those projects.

MCHT’s efforts to conserve land around the edges of Acadia National Park have not only benefited the environment but also enhanced the visitor experience. Acadia is one of the 10 smallest national parks in terms of acreage, but also one of the 10 most visited, making its viewshed extremely important. The ability to look out from a peak and see undeveloped land, including undeveloped islands, is a defining part of the park’s character and something that can’t be taken for granted.

Mytar is proud when MCHT’s work to foster connections results in what appears to be a seamless landscape. “We can serve as a bridge when there are multiple partners, from landowners to governments to other organizations,” she says. “We play the role of a facilitator for conservation projects across ownership boundaries and with multiple goals. It’s what we do.”

To learn more about how and where MCHT is working on Mount Desert Island, visit