Frenchman Bay Partners

fbp outreach 1BAR HARBOR — When environmental scientists, government groups and economists sit down to discuss land-use planning, it can seem like they speak different languages. A new collaboration between the Frenchman Bay Partners (FBP), the University of Maine, and a company called Cardno/Entrix aims to address that issue.

Brian Reilly of Seal Harbor has been active with FBP since its inception ten years ago. For most of that time, he worked for the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. His new role as an environmental consultant with Cardno/Entrix introduced the group to the Ecosystem Services Value (ESV)-decision support tool. It’s a computer-based system developed by Doug McNair. McNair was on hand to explain the system Thursday when FBP gathered Mount Desert Island business leaders at Galyn’s restaurant for a dinner and discussion.

“We’re trying to incorporate environmental issues into natural resource decision making,” McNair said. “Usually these discussions are too qualitative and too vague. Our disagreements are sometimes only because we’re using different language.” Using their ESV tool, Cardno/Entrix has worked with oil and gas companies to prioritize cleanup efforts, developers to decide between sites for residential developments, and regional groups to decide between watershed protection projects.

Frenchman Bay Partners hosted a series of meetings last week to gather input on a decision support tool for long-range planning for the Frenchman Bay watershed. ISLANDER PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES

Frenchman Bay Partners hosted a series of meetings last week to gather input on a decision support tool for long-range planning for the Frenchman Bay watershed.

He compared the tool to talking to consumers about preferences in buying a car. “We’re interested here in the relative value you place on, say, safety and fuel efficiency, not on how the engineers might achieve each of those things.”

At the dinner, the group was asked to rate their preferences in environmental services such as water quality, commercial fisheries and protection from erosion. Environmental services also directly affect other social and economic outcomes, such as number of cruise ship visits or recreational boating and swimming.

“I do think that the process of coming up with metrics, discussing what we value and giving a weight to those values is an important one,” said Dr. Jane Disney of the FBP executive committee, who convened the meeting. “People start talking about the bay in new ways, and looking at the bay through an ecosystem services lens, putting people into the equation, but not leaving the environment out.

“I imagine that town councils or planning boards could use the tool in the future. Perhaps a Conservation Commission or Shellfish Committee might set up some alternative scenarios and use the metrics and values from the tool to see how one alternative would achieve a balance between the environment and the local economy, but another alternative would favor the economy over the environment or vice versa. If a developer perceives that a project might be contentious, an analysis might reveal that the project might not have quite the impact that is feared.”

A grant from the Alex C. Walker foundation supports the project. A team from the University of Maine School of Economics is also involved. “We’ll continue to work with FBP on valuation projects,” Professor Kathleen Bell said. “The Walker foundation is really into market-based solutions to environmental problems.”

The foundation has supported FBP for the last five years, Disney said. “Because of the broad participation by diverse stakeholders in the Frenchman Bay Partners, there is emerging capacity to reduce threats to marine habitats which are important to both commercial and recreational users of the bay.”

Fiona de Koning of Acadia Aqua Farms is a member of the FBP executive committee. “I’m not a social scientist or a hard scientist – we are the business community part of the mix – but I think it was very productive,” she said. “It was a good introduction to the process. My experience is people very often aren’t speaking the same language. Our goals are often similar. It’s just the ways to get there may vary.”

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.