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What is the Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association?
Established in 1969, the Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association (SVCA) is a non-profit land trust and advocacy group of 550 member families. Our mission is to conserve and restore the natural and historic heritage of the Sheepscot Watershed which encompasses 320 square miles in mid-coast Maine. We currently protect more than 3,633 acres through purchases and conservation easements. This includes over 15 miles of Sheepscot River frontage. Our success depends on the active support of our members and volunteers. Please consider becoming a member of SVCA today.
As the lead steward for the Sheepscot River, the Association currently
- protects property along the river through purchases or works with willing landowners to establish conservation easements.
- maintains public preserves in Alna, Jefferson, Newcastle, Whitefield and Palermo for all to enjoy.
- monitors the Sheepscot's water quality at 9 locations in the watershed through a network of more than 20 dedicated volunteers.
- assists local non-profits and towns with natural resource information by providing GIS mapping services at a reduced cost.
- works with state and federal resource managers to restore Atlantic salmon to the Sheepscot, once the most exciting game fish in Maine, now threatened with extinction.
- offers opportunities to its members to participate in fun events such as hikes and canoe trips along the Sheepscot, as well as fulfilling volunteer jobs such as trail maintenance, tree planting, and water quality monitoring.
- helped develop a comprehensive web-based database of information about the Sheepscot Watershed ranging from fish catch, to historic photos, to land-use data.
- stands up for it's watershed, endeavers to intervene in situations that have the potential to negatively effect it, and works to eliminate pollution sources
The Sheepscot River Watershed is 320 square miles in area and spans 58 miles from Freedom to Southport.
Following discussions in the late 1960's, the Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association (SVCA) was created by Nick Barth, his father, the Reverend Dr. Joseph Barth Sr., and a small group of Sheepscot River Watershed landowners on Columbus Day in 1969. Their goal was to establish a watershed conservation organization with a broad conservation mission. The initial focus of the SVCA was on educational activities to promote safe and thoughtful land and water use practices within the watershed. In 1970 a certificate of organization chartering operation in the Sheepscot Watershed was completed and filed in the Lincoln Country Registry. The SVCA was granted tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service on March 23, 1971.
The Early Years
The Association Charter established a watershed conservation organization with a broad land, water and historic resources conservation mission. Initially attention was focused on information and education activities to insure safe and thoughtful land and water use practices and planning for environmental protection. In 1970, the Association arranged for a preliminary study of the hydrography of the Sheepscot Watershed. The major purpose of this study was to determine the possibility of stream flow regulation to attain optimum habitat for the anadromous fisheries, especially Atlantic salmon. In 1971 guidelines for protecting the environment in the location of new highway routes were prepared and sent to the State Highway Commission. During 1971 and into 1972, the Association was a major participant in the public debate on licensing the Maine Yankee Nuclear Power Station. The Association's principal volunteer consultant on nuclear energy, Dr. Richard Wilson, was subsequently hired by the State of Maine to help resolve public safety and environmental protection issues initially raised by the SVCA. In 1973- 1974, the Association organized and arranged the funding for a first-of-its-kind natural resources inventory covering the eight coastal towns in the Sheepscot Watershed. This study was done by graduate students from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design in cooperation with representatives from the town planning boards and conservation commissions. Study products for each town included inventory maps, color slides and a narrative report.
In 1974 a suggested checklist of information for initial review of land subdivisions was developed for the Sheepscot watershed towns. In 1978 - 1979, the Association arranged for public discussion in the watershed on a possible study of the Sheepscot River by the US Department of the Interior for inclusion in the federal Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers System. The results of these public meetings, including discussions and comments generated by them, provided the principal basis for postponement of a study.
In the early 1980's, the Association was the principal force in securing major changes in the design of the "new" US Route I Wiscasset - Edgecomb Bridge and also preventing the filling of more coastal wetlands, saving many acres of valuable coastal marine habitat in the towns of Edgecomb and Wiscasset respectively. In the late 1980's and early 1990's, the Association was a major participant in helping to develop public policy and in planning for transportation in the mid-coast Route I corridor. This included a major role in organizing an independent citizens group to develop alternatives to a Route I bypass around Wiscasset Village, and serving on one of two citizen advisory committees established by the State Department of Transportation for the Route I Mid-Coast Transportation Study. During 1993, 1994 and early 1995 the Association was intensively involved in getting State approval for permits which will protect the Sheepscot River from potential oil contamination should there be a spill during the operation of a mobile asphalt plant in the gravel pit of the Crookers located in the Towns of Alna and Whitefield. As originally approved by the Department of Environmental Protection, it is reasonably certain that petroleum contamination of this significant groundwater aquifer, which discharges to the Sheepscot River via Spring Brook, would have resulted in a major ecological disaster.
The Land Trust
The Association Charter also provided for the receipt and administration of property to promote and advance conservation in the Sheepscot River Watershed. SVCA was, therefore, one of the very first local/regional land trusts to be established in Maine, providing information and assistance in the formative years of several mid-coast land trusts.
The first land gift was formally accepted by the Board of Directors meeting on April 11, 1977. This gift was given by the late Clifton Walker and his son David and consists of a 4+- acre estuarine marsh on the Sheepscot in the Town of Alna.
Nearly all of the Association land gifts and conservation easements are shorelands nearby or adjacent to the Sheepscot River.
Water Quality MonitoringThe Association in 1994 began a program designed to determine whether State Water Classification Standards are being met in critical river and tributary sections and to identify and help ensure the elimination of sources of pollution. This is the first complete and coordinated effort of its kind to be carried out in the Sheepscot River Watershed. Water sampling is being done by volunteers, with training and technical assistance primarily from the State Department of Environmental Protection. The State Departments of Marine Resources, Atlantic Salmon Authority, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service have also been helping.
The SVCA has an impressive record of major accomplishments in the conservation of natural and historical resources in the Sheepscot Watershed. This pioneering and successful work has been done by a small number of dedicated persons. As we enter the twenty-first century, we invite others to join in our mission to conserve and restore the natural and historic heritage of the Sheepscot Watershed.