A lot of important conservation work is funded by Maine’s business community. Today I’ll tell you about one company’s conservation work: Poland Spring Water, owned by Nestle Waters. Poland Spring was a strong supporter of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine during my tenure there, and has continued to support my writing as a sponsor of my website and outdoor news blog.
I’ve enjoyed working with Poland Spring’s Maine staff over the years, including the work we did to transfer use of a hatchery near Kingfield that was purchased by Poland Spring to Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Poland Spring also paid the memberships of any employee that wanted to be a SAM member – and that turned out to be 58 workers!
I’ve attended several of the company’s annual dinners at which its conservation partners are recognized, and it’s always an impressive turnout of great nonprofit groups and programs in the conservation and environmental community. Here’s a list of some of the company’s most significant conservation and education projects.
The Ecology School
This program is nurturing future environmental stewards through its residential outdoor ecology programs. Since 2001, more than 4,500 students from the Poland Spring school district have had FBES environmental education experiences. In 2011, Poland Spring Water began sponsoring an annual overnight environmental education program at FBES for all Hollis-area 8th grade students, about 300 of whom has participated – each year! The FBES experience teaches young people about stewardship by giving them the opportunity to explore and learn from the ecosystems that surround them.
The Gulf of Maine Research Institute
Over the past 8 years Poland Spring has partnered with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute to transport nearly every fifth and/or sixth grade student in Maine to the center to participate in LabVenture!, an immersive marine science program. The program is offered free of charge to schools and students are transported statewide in the lab bus.
Brookie Buddies: Water, Fish & ME
Since 2008, Poland Spring has educated more than 7,000 students through environmental education programs. Poland Spring’s unique “Brookie Buddies” curriculum, developed through collaboration with the Portland Water District and Auburn Water District, teaches students about their local watershed ecosystem and how water quality affects Maine’s aquatic life. Between January and May, students raise brook trout from the egg stage to fingerlings in aquariums, and then release the fish into a local, state-approved body of water. In the process, students learn traditional lessons about ecosystems, the life cycle of the water, fish habitats, anatomy and biomonitoring. They also gain insight into how individuals can impact the environment and the importance of environmental conservation and caretaking. Poland Spring provides all equipment and materials, as well as significant staff time to the project.
Project WET® (Water Education for Teachers) is a national nonprofit water education program and publisher for educators and young people ages 5-18. The program facilities and promotes awareness, appreciation, knowledge and stewardship of water resources through classroom-ready teaching aids and the establishing of internationally sponsored Project WET® programs. Each year Poland Spring hosts two annual “Make A Splash” festivals in which grade school children participate in hands-on water education activities. Poland Spring also uses Project WET® materials in a variety of settings across Maine including: • In our local Brookie Buddies program • With visiting groups of kids, teachers and parents who tour the Poland Spring Museum • At Children’s Water Festivals held at the University of Maine in Orono and the University of Southern Maine in Portland • Upon request from classroom teachers.
Southern Maine Children’s Water Festival
Over 650 elementary and middle school students from across Maine gather in Portland each year for the Southern Maine Children’s Water Festival. The Festival, which is held at the campus of the University of Southern Maine, is led by some of Maine’s leading environmental educators, non-profits and state departments. Poland Spring has been a major sponsor of the event over the past several years, not only through financial commitments, but also through participation as a planning committee member and classroom presenter. By contributing to the annual festival, we help to educate area 4th, 5th, and 6th graders about Maine’s abundant water resources and how they are used, protected, and conserved.
Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program
VLMP’s mission to foster stewardship of Maine’s lakes and their watersheds in order to ensure high water quality and ecological integrity. Through monetary funding Poland Spring is able to ensure that VLMP accomplishes their organization goals by enlisting and training citizen volunteers throughout the state to collect a broad range of lake water quality data, conduct invasive plant screening surveys, and be stewards for their local lakes and ponds. The extensive scientific lake data collected from VLMP volunteers is used by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (Maine DEP) and other government and state agencies, educational institutions, grassroots environmental organizations, town planners, businesses, communities, lake associations, and others responsible for assessing environmental conditions and trends, so that they may take science-based action to protect and restore Maine’s lakes and ponds.
The Envirothon is a state- and nation-wide environmental competition where high school students test their knowledge of natural resources and current environmental issues. Teams consisting of 3-5 students compete first at a regional level, answering questions and solving hands-on problems at five stations: Wildlife, Water/Aquatics, Forestry, Soils, and a Current Natural Resource Issue. Poland Spring has been a corporate sponsor of this high school science education competition for the past seven years and has helped the winning team with travel scholarships to attend the international competition. In 2010, Poland Spring hosted the Southern Maine Regional Envirothon competition on the grounds of the company’s historic birthplace, Preservation Park, in Poland Spring, Maine. In previous years, Poland Spring employees have participated as regional judges and presenters at the annual awards banquet.
Saco River Recreation Council
The Saco River is an important watershed in northeastern New Hampshire and southwestern Maine that supplies drinking water to roughly 250,000 people in 35 towns. Each year thousands of new canoeists take to Maine waterways. The Saco River Recreational Council (SRCC) works to ensure that the natural beauty and recreational opportunities presented by the Saco River can be preserved and shared by all. Since 2005, Poland Spring has provided funding for SRRC to hire a summer intern to perform essential services for the Council that include educating people on safe canoeing and camping practices, working with landowners so they can peacefully co-exist with canoeists enjoying the river, maintaining educational bulletin boards and assisting in litter collection. In 2014, Poland Spring recognized SRRC for their efforts by awarding the organization the Poland Spring Natural Leader Award.
The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. NWNA has supported The Nature Conservancy by investing $35,000 in its conservation work on the Katahdin Lake preservation campaign. Poland Spring continues to support the conservancy on an annual basis and meets with NC staff as needed.
Maine Audubon works to conserve Maine’s wildlife and wildlife habitat by engaging people of all ages in education, conservation and action. At the corporate level, NWNA supported ME Audubon through a $15,000 investment over 3 years as a Corporate Partner
Maine Geological Survey – United States Geological Survey – National Weather Service
Since 2008, Poland Spring has worked with the MGS to collect snowpack data during the winter months of January through April. The data is then forwarded to the USGS and the National Weather Service. The purpose of this data is for state flood forecasting and climate change prediction.