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Faces of Conservation

Q&A with Will Brune


Gone Clammin’

Watch a video of Will clamming with his dog, Quint, in the Kennebec Estuary (yes, the dog gets one, too!).

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From learning about fire in Tasmania to dodging fish bombs in Indonesia, Will Brune has had some pretty thrilling experiences in nature. But it is his work with landowners in Maine that he finds most rewarding. Nature.org caught up with Will on the heels of his 100th land deal with the Conservancy to find out why he thinks protecting land is one of the best things people can do for nature, and how he first got to know one of his own favorite places: Merrymeeting Bay.
"Even museums and buildings are temporary when compared with gifts of land. In my opinion, there is no bigger impact you can make."

Will Brune, director of land protection

nature.org:

Why are you a conservationist?

Will Brune:

My grandfather was deeply connected to the conservation community in the Adirondacks, where I grew up. Those conservationists were my childhood heroes. They helped me understand that if you love to hunt or fish or camp, you have a special responsibility to protect nature. In 7th grade, I volunteered at a non-profit fish hatchery when most other kids were busy playing sports. I’ve worked in the environmental field ever since.

nature.org:

What was your first project with the Conservancy?

Will Brune:

I first came to work with the Conservancy in 1993 as an intern with the Adirondack program. Since joining the land protection team in Maine, I’ve worked on transactions of less than an acre up to hundreds of thousands of acres, but the common denominator is always people. It’s always more about the people than the land.

nature.org:

What’s your favorite place in Maine?

Will Brune:

Merrymeeting Bay, in the heart of the Kennebec Estuary. I first discovered this place while hunting and fishing so I’d be literally immersed there in my waders, with the sunrise behind me and the teal whistling above.

It’s an active migration spot in all seasons. Whether I’m ice fishing for smelt migrating in from the ocean in winter or watching alewife and herring arrive in spring, there’s a constant changing of the guard here.

nature.org:

You just completed your 100th land deal for the Conservancy. What deal has been most rewarding?

Will Brune:

It’s been exciting to watch the pieces of the puzzle come together in the Kennebec Estuary. We had a stunning donation last year of a property called the Basin — one of the most valuable private lands that has ever been donated to the Conservancy. 

In the cold spells of winter, the black ducks congregate in the saline, tidal waters of the lower estuary, where they still have access to food and open water. This is a place where we hope to study the ability of salt marshes to migrate as sea levels rise.

We’ve completed nearly 50 projects in the estuary, and some can take quite a long time. Recently, a landowner I first met eight years ago donated a wonderful property called Otter Point. My job is to plant the seed, but protection doesn’t happen until the landowner says: “I want to do this.”

nature.org:

Where do you find hope?

Will Brune:

In the landowners I meet who love their land, have taken the right steps to care for it and don’t want to see it lost. Even museums and buildings are temporary when compared with gifts of land. In my opinion, there is no bigger impact you can make.


Will Brune, the Conservancy's director of land protection in Maine, has completed more than 100 land protection deals in his 16 years with the chapter. In addition to his work in Maine, Will has contributed his expertise to support conservation projects in the Adirondacks, the Great Lakes, Australia, Canada, Indonesia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He is a graduate of Saint Lawrence University and is a Master Maine Guide.

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