Sep 082010

I’ve obviously become fascinated with the fifteen populated islands in the Maine Archipelago. They are dealing with many of the same problems and challenges we face on Lummi Island: transportation to and from the island, resupply, maintaining schools, accommodating summer visitors, making money, renewable energy, clean water, waste disposal, development, governance and sustainability.

There are many similarities between the Maine Archipelago and the San Juans (which we belong to geographically, if not politically). The Maine Islands have been at it a lot longer and they have more help.

The Island Institute is a non-profit organization with 30-35 employees and a nearly $5 million annual  budget that acts as an umbrella organization for Swan’s, Chebeague, North Haven and all the the others in this interesting and varied  group.
The Island Institute has a list of priorities worth emulating. Click the link for more details on each of their priorities:

1. Affordable housing.  “Affordable housing is essential to the sustainability of vibrant year-round island and working-waterfront communities.”

2. Climate Change. “This project began with a lobstermen’s round-table discussion of observations that might be tied to global warming: changing times for peak catches; changing weather-patterns, etc.”

3. Fisheries. “The sustainability of Maine’s year-round islands and its working coastal communities depends on healthy fisheries.  Should they collapse, these vibrant places would soon lose their schools, their young families, their churches, libraries and historical societies and their general stores.”

4. Historical Societies. “Historical Societies play important roles in communities, storing the collective memories of current and past residents and offering a glimpse of the past events that have impacted and determined the community’s development and identity.”

5. Island Agriculture. “Since its inception in 1983, the Island Institute has focused on island sustainability, working in partnership with year-round islanders, whose heritage is that of living and thinking sustainably.”

6. Island Governance. “Self-governance is extremely important to most island communities because it ensures that the people who best understand these unique challenges and needs – islanders – make the decisions that most affect their lives.”

7. Land Use. “Geography presents the most salient of island limits, but a finite amount of ‘space’ has many more implications than simply the amount of land available to build homes.  Wise, informed land use considers the importance of land for multiple uses: residential and commercial development, working-waterfront access, open space for recreation and wildlife, wetlands to recharge aquifers, and much more.”

8. Libraries . “Island libraries not only have some of the highest per-capita circulation rates in the state but also serve as critical gathering places, providing  relaxing and comfortable public spaces for community members.”

9. Marine Spatial Planning “This project is designed to document how island and coastal communities use and depend on marine areas.”

10.  Renewable Engery. “Because most basic services, such as electricity, communications infrastructure, oil and gasoline, must all be transported to the islands, their rising costs are becoming prohibitively expensive for many islanders.”

11.  Schools/Education. “Because island and working-waterfront communities place such a high priority on their schools and the education of their children, we have made them a focus of our own efforts.”

12. Working Waterfront Access. “For 25 years, the Island Institute has devoted extensive resources to protecting what remains of Maine’s “working waterfronts”—the saltwater access (both coastal and estuarine) that supports commercial fishing and a host of other fishing-related jobs…”

Very impressive, I think. Who is doing this kind of thinking and planning for Lummi Island?


  2 Responses to “Island Institute”

  1. To get this sort of critical mass it takes political involvement and a lot of local pride and volunteerism.
    Otherwise you are largely invisible to the mainlanders over there in America. But there is no denying that islanders have to cultivate a sense of independence and self determinism for themselves. There are whole subcultures of islanders who have flourished for centuries ie. the Greeks, Finns, Scots, not to mention the South Seas and the multitude of islands in Asia.

  2. Thank you so much for spreading the word about the challenges facing Maine’s year-round island communities, and the work that we’re doing in partnership with them to ensure that they remain vibrant places to live and work. I thought you might be interested in learning more about the third annual Sustainable Island Living conference that we’re hosting in Rockland, Maine, over the weekend of November 5-7. This year’s theme is “Island to Island” and it will bring people from islands both along the Maine coast as well as along the East and West coasts to share resources and practical ideas that they can take back to their communities. You can read about it via this link: I would love to start a dialogue with Lummi islanders, and to share any resources or knowledge that we’ve developed over the past 27 years of serving as a voice for the balanced future of the islands and waters of the Gulf of Maine. I hope to hear from you soon!

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