Jenn Burns Gray has done a terrific job lobbying for Maine Audubon for the last 20 years, and I’ve enjoyed working with her. She’s a strong and calm presence in the Capitol, and we have worked together on many issues and initiatives over the years.
So I was very disappointed to learn that Jenn was leaving Audubon for a new job, but then, the very next day, she was back at the State House representing her new employer, the Maine Association of Nonprofits. They are very lucky to have her. And all I could say was, “Welcome back Jenn!”
Maine Audubon hosted a party for Jenn recently, and the remarks written by Sally Stockwell and delivered by Susan Gallo were wonderful. I want to share those with you today.
20-Year Tribute to Jenn Burns Gray
By Sally Stockwell
Tonight we are celebrating 20 wonderful years of working with Jenn here at Maine Audubon and giving her a fond farewell and best wishes for her new work at the Maine Association of Nonprofits. We already miss her dearly yet I still marvel at the fact that we managed to keep her with us as long as we did. It’s not easy going the State House every day during the session for 20 years running, especially during some of the more tumultuous years. I know I couldn’t do it!
I remember interviewing and hiring Jenn fresh out of Law School and sending her immediately up to Augusta to represent us at the Legislature with very little guidance, mentoring, or tutelage. Somehow she figured it all out and has been doing a stellar job of representing Maine Audubon and Maine’s wildlife ever since. And she didn’t stop there – in addition to weighing in on hundreds of bills every year, Jenn also served on legislatively-created committees, agency stakeholder groups, and led our legal challenges before the BEP and LURC.
Some of Jenn’s many accomplishments during her time at Maine Audubon include playing a significant role in the following:
- Finally passing Significant Wildlife Habitat rules after 20 years of being on the books but never having any rules written!
- Drafting a series of comprehensive recommendations for funding wildlife and environmental conservation in Maine with the Maine Futures Committee.
- Stopping Takings Legislation from undermining our long heritage of natural resource conservation in Maine.
- Passing a ban on first the use of and later the sale of lead fishing tackle that kills loons and other wildlife.
- Adding multiple species to Maine’s Endangered and Threatened Species List.
- Strengthening protections in the shoreland zone.
- Creating an innovative approach to allowing dredging of the Wells Harbor without damaging high value wildlife habitats in the area – particularly the tidal marsh and sandbars.
- Defending the Sand Dune rules, not once, not twice, not three times, but more times than I can remember.
- Encouraging adoption of the “Retreat Policy” that helps prepare coastal communities for sea level rise.
- Securing multiple bonds for the Land for Maine’s Future Program.
- Defending against a variety of reorganization plans and budget cuts to key wildlife, public lands, DEP, DOC and State Planning positions/programs.
- Leading MA’s expert testimony and cross-examination for hearings before LURC on the Redington and Black Nubble Wind Power projects and Plum Creek’s Moosehead Lake Concept Plan, resulting in a denial of the high elevation wind projects and a substantial alteration of the Moosehead Lake Plan.
- Leading MA’s expert testimony with concerns about the proposed super Wal-Mart adjacent to the Penjajawoc Marsh, one of the most significant freshwater marshes for wildlife in Maine, resulting in a surprise denial of the project.
Amazingly, Jenn was able to do all this and more while juggling multiple responsibilities both at work and at home; building friendships and forging alliances with a wide variety of people; bringing people of disparate viewpoints together to work positively towards a common goal; and maintaining a sense of calm in the midst of turmoil all around her. She is the only person I know that can actually multi-task; the rest of us like to think we can or say we can, but Jenn’s the only person I know who actually can. I was continually amazed by how she could juggle so many different issues and tasks simultaneously and keep tract of it all, and I really appreciated her patience with me and her coaching of me when I couldn’t always keep up…
We at Maine Audubon, and especially her conservation teammates, will miss Jenn’s strategic savvy, her ability to steer us all on the right course – typically one that would protect wildlife while at the same time not alienate others -, her positive can-do attitude and outlook, her great research and writing skills, and her wonderful relationships with so many outside Maine Audubon.
Most importantly, we will miss Jenn’s friendship and her commitment to helping our team be as successful as we can be. Jenn has always given 120% to her job and her work around the state, for which we are eternally grateful and for which we all – all of us in this room – have benefitted. But in addition, Jenn has also always been there to help her teammates whenever needed – whether it be to help draft and present testimony or drop off dinner for a sick or disabled person.
Over the years, Jenn has shared her family with us, coming to Peony Day, summer nature camp, Apple Day, etc. and we have all gotten to know her wonderful husband and children, who share her love of wildlife and the outdoors. We hope to see them all still hanging around Gilsland Farm in the years to come.
And even though Jenn has moved on, her unflappable spirit and numerous contributions to Maine Audubon will live on. We will remember her always by planting an heirloom apple tree here at Gilsland Farm in her honor and also send a tree along with her to the new home she and Doug will be building in Brunswick.
In addition, in honor of her 20 years here at Maine Audubon, we are giving her and her family a 4-day stay at Nahmakanta Wilderness Camps, on dates of her choosing, where together they will be able to watch loons, fish, canoe, hike the AT, and swim off wilderness sand beaches.
Jenn, we wish you the best in your new job and expect to see you at the State House or elsewhere as our paths continue to weave together in the years to come. Thank you for all you have given us and taught us while here at Audubon.