Ben Emory grew up on the water, but his life’s work has been protecting the land.
In his new book, “Sailor for the Wild,” the Bar Harbor resident wrote about what he calls his two great passions: “Sailing and the sea and conservation, primarily land conservation.”
“They have intersected and reinforced each other my whole life,” he said. “Sailing taught me about the geography of Maine. Being out on the water, I got really interested in the beauty of the Maine coast and then the ecology of the Maine coast and the people of the Maine coast.
“If anybody has been shaped by Maine’s landscape and seascape, it’s me,” he said. “And that’s what led to the book. It’s partly boats, partly conservation and partly how they tie together.”
It’s also a history, memoir and homage to coastal Maine.
Growing up, Emory’s family lived in New York and Connecticut, but they spent every summer on the Maine coast, in Brooklin, where he learned to sail. Early on, he took up ocean racing and sailed across the Atlantic. After college, he entered the U.S. Navy’s Officer Candidate School and then served on a destroyer. He eventually became the navigator, a job he described as “the best on the ship.”
Back on land, he gravitated toward land conservation and became a leader in the conservation movement.
“Today, working in land conservation is a profession, but it wasn’t back then,” he said. “We were just learning as we went.”
In 1971, Emory became an original member of the staff of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. He served as its executive director from 1976-1982.
“Sailor for the Wild” recounts the trust’s pioneering role in the widespread use of conservation easements to protect privately held land.
“Conservation easements had been used sporadically around the country, but it was the Acadia National Park Conservation Easement Program, promoted by Maine Coast Heritage Trust, that popularized conservation easements as a land conservation technique nationwide,” he said. “We had people coming from other states to take a look at what we were doing here.”
On the national scene, Emory was co-founder and later executive director of the Land Trust Exchange, which is now the Land Trust Alliance.
One chapter of “Sailor for the Wild” is devoted to Acadia National Park.
“It has been and remains a place of fun recreation, rejuvenation and healthy exercise, of nature observation and education, of intellectual stimulation and inspiration, of policy involvement, and of lasting friendships formed,” he wrote.
He currently serves on the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission.
Emory said he hopes those who read “Sailor for the Wild” will be encouraged, as he wrote in the book, to consider “not only how best to preserve Maine’s extraordinary quality of place, but how to instill in the coming generations full understanding of what it means to enjoy and appreciate the outdoors and to conserve it.”
Emory will give an author talk and sign copies of “Sailor for the Wild: On Maine, Conservation and Boats” at the Jesup Memorial Library on Thursday, June 14, at 7 p.m.
“‘Sailor for the Wild’ is a “great history and warmly written! … from a player present at the birth of the modem conservation movement,” wrote Tim Glidden, president of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust.
“As one of Maine’s pioneers for the land trust movement, Ben Emory’s historical perspective in ‘Sailor for the Wild’ is” enlightening, wrote Anthony Irving of the Lyme Land Conservation Trust.
Books will be on sale that night courtesy of co-sponsor Sherman’s Books. The talk is co-sponsored by Bar Harbor Bank & Trust. Contact the Jesup at 288-4245 or [email protected].