By Elizabeth Clemente
The Forecaster news story
YARMOUTH — Two area residents were recognized by the Natural Resources Council of Maine last month for their contributions to protecting the state’s environment.
At NRCM’s annual Conservation Leadership Awards Oct. 17, Horace “Hoddy” Hildreth, of Falmouth, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
According to the organization, Hildreth was honored for his “more than four decades of public service in conservation and as a business voice for the environment.”
Brunswick resident Robin Robinson received the People’s Choice Award for creating what the NRCM called “a flourishing online educational community of people who share photos and information” about Maine’s wild birds.
Robinson’s website is a Facebook page called MAINE Birds, which she created five years ago; it now has more than 18,000 members from all over the world.
NRCM called Hildreth one of the most “valued, influential and caring voices for the defense and protection of Maine’s environment over the past six decades.”
According to NRCM documents, after taking a leave from his work as an attorney, Hildreth was elected to the Legislature as a Republican representative in 1966. He served until 1968 before leaving to form his own legal practice.
Later, he expanded his father’s company, Diversified Communications, into what the NRCM called a “highly successful global enterprise.”
Hildreth’s award was accepted on his behalf by his son, Daniel Hildreth.
In an interview Oct. 30, Daniel said his father has always been interested in environmental protection and worked to get eco-friendly laws passed during his time in the Legislature.
“Maine was a wilder place back then, but he could see that we’re not far away from the (big) cities on the eastern seaboard,” Daniel said. “He knew that people would want to come here and he knew that we needed to protect what we have.”
After leaving the Legislature, Hildreth led the Coastal Resources Action Committee, a lobbying organization.
Daniel said his father’s lobbying efforts led to the creation of Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission, which is now known as the Land Use Planning Commission.
Daniel said his father also lobbied against an oil refinery that was proposed to be built in Eastport, and one of the lobbyists Hildreth hired at CRAC was Angus King, now serving as the independent senator representing Maine in Congress.
For Robinson, a wildlife photographer, the inspiration to create MAINE Birds was sparked in response to a listserv she belongs to that is designed to allow people to post about “rare or out of season” birds.
The members of the listserv are mostly elite birders, Robinson said, and posting photos or anecdotes about birds is not encouraged because it “clogs things up.”
She said she realized the listserv was not helpful to people looking to learn how to identify certain birds or simply sharing excitement about seeing a specific species.
“There was this big gap in what was available out there electronically,” she said.
Conversely, on her page, she said people do not need to be professional birders, live in Maine, or even the United States to contribute, they just need to be interested. They can post photographs, links to educational programs, and text posts about birds they have spotted.
Visitors can also view resources that tell them how to deal with bird-related issues, such as what to do if a bird flies into a window, and how to prevent such occurrences. Migration season, she added, typically sees a high number of “window strikes.”
Receiving the honor from NRCM, she said, was a “huge boost” for her.
The award helped her to see the “validity and importance” of what she does and feel less lonely in her work, which she thinks is a common feeling among conservationists.
Robinson also said she thinks the conservation aspect of what she does is tied to her members’ familiarity with birds.
“Environmental issues are very dear to me and I believe that people will learn to protect what they have come to love,” she said. “And how they come to love something is through familiarity and knowing what the thing is.”