Main takes helm of conservation group

  • Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Catherine Main has been named executive director of the Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy. STAFF PHOTO BY SULLY WITTE

Coastal land conservation is imperative to sustaining not only quality of life, but also the very natural resources that draw people to live along the coast.

The Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy is Mount Pleasant’s organization that facilitates conservation partnerships in the East Cooper area and has been a huge success.

A new director has recently taken the reins, bringing her undying passion for conservation with her.

Catherine Main looks forward to her role as the new executive director. Her unique combination of experiences will be especially useful in working in the East Cooper area to preserve the quality of life we all love and enjoy.

Main has lived on the coast of South Carolina and Georgia her entire life and has a great passion for coastal land conservation. This is evident in her past work experiences with the St. Simons Land Trust, the Lowcountry Open Land Trust and the Kiawah Conservancy.

Main was born on Hilton Head Island and grew up on St. Simons Island in Georgia. he holds a BA degree in Psychology from Emory University and a Masters degree in Environmental Studies (with special emphasis on coastal planning) from the college of Charleston/Medical University of South Carolina.

This interdisciplinary training in science, policy and risk assessment as well as psychology has prepared her to effectively communicate with individuals in these related fields. “Living on the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia my entire life has given me great appreciation for how fragile our coastal communities are and how land trusts can play a vital role in preserving a community’s quality of life so we will always love where we live,” she said.

After receiving her degrees she began her career as a coastal planner with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Charleston where she implemented, analyzed and evaluated coastal projects.

Working as an outreach coordinator for coastal hazards, coastal planning and coastal management, she gained significant experience working with state and local community managers throughout the country.

She developed knowledge of how to utilize GIS and remote sensing technologies in studying the changes taking place in coastal areas.

Following a move to the Georgia coast, she was employed by the newly formed St. Simons Land Trust as its founding executive director.

Her responsibilities included developing a board of directors, creating a clear mission, creating a membership database and program, researching at risk properties with the potential for protection and acquiring land and land conservation easements.

Shortly after its founding, the St. Simons Land Trust was recognized by the Land Trust Alliance as one of the most successful new land trusts in the nation.

Upon her return to Charleston, Main continued her involvement in coastal conservation with work experiences at the Low Country Open Land Trust and most recently with the Kiawah Conservancy.

She feels that with the rapid growth of the East Cooper area in recent years, there is much work to be done in making sure that future development proceeds in a way that preserves the beauty and character of the area. “Mount Pleasant is a thriving community where people truly love where they live. One of the biggest conservation challenges we have in the East Cooper area is how do we foster the economic benefits of a rapidly growing population without losing the natural community characteristics where we live and love,” said Main.

“If we do not work now to protect the natural areas they will be lost for forever.”

Important to note is that Main sees the land conservancy as a mechanism for building partnerships between developers, land owners and conservationists.

The Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy is not an adversary group. The conservancy is the facilitator of balance between development and the natural world, she explained.

“We can not afford to sit back and not do anything to preserve our natural environment - which is the very reason why we all live here and want to spend our time here. We have to work hard to protect our resources,” she said.

Her goals are to identify neighborhoods and organizations that want to work with the conservancy in partnering to protect property.

She’s sees various partnerships as a benefit to the entire community. “In addition I’d really like to see and encourage the community to embrace and support the conservancy through our membership program,” she added. Of course all sorts of properties are eligible for the conservation programs.

Anything from pocket parks and wetlands to large tracks of land can be protected through customized agreements with the conservancy.

The Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy Board is finalizing their strategic plan and several exciting events are planned throughout the year to bring awareness and attract supporters.

“It’s all about getting the two sides together and working with elected officials to be a centralized organization that is considered stewards of the environment,” said Main.

For more information visit http://mountpland.org. Main is available for speaking engagements by emailing catherine@mountpland.org.

The Mount Pleasant Open Space Foundation was created by the Town of Mount Pleasant in 2002 and received non-profit status in 2004. Considerable municipal funding was initially dedicated by the Town of Mount Pleasant to secure a successful foundation for the land trust.

As the organization evolved, town funds were decreased and the organization naturally strove toward self-sufficiency. In July 2009 the Town of Mount Pleasant passed a resolution authorizing and acknowledging the independence of the MPOSF.

In September 2009 they changed the name to the Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy.

They have since been an independent, 501(c)(3) urban land trust, supported entirely by individual/business donations, grants, sponsorships, and special events.

(Sully Witte can be reached at editor@moultrienews.com)

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