Kate Dempsey is the State Director of The Nature Conservancy in Maine. She has been in that role since 2016 and has been with The Nature Conservancy since 2003 working primarily in the federal policy arena.
Under Kate’s leadership, TNC Maine is making significant investments in reducing and managing the effects of climate change by joining together science and policy with placed based actions which are restoring and conserving the connections between the forests, rivers and ocean in Maine.
At TNC Maine, Kate has prioritized and recognized that the best conservation outcomes are achieved when they integrate communities’ knowledge and are coupled with conservation science. She is leading efforts to evolve our conservation strategies to better partner with Wabanaki neighbors and to integrate equity into all our conservation strategies.
Kate serves on Governor Janet Mills' Climate Council as the Environmental Representative, and she leads The Nature Conservancy’s climate work across the Northeast coordinating strategies and planning regionally. Kate is particularly committed to understanding how we can rapidly deploy renewable energy while ensuring that nature can continue to play a role in climate emissions reductions. In addition, climate adaptation must ensure that people most impacted by climate change are considered in climate adaptation approaches and in climate policy development.
Under Kate’s leadership, TNC Maine:
For the previous 13 years, she helped lead TNC's public policy initiatives in Maine—first as Senior Policy Advisor for Federal Affairs, where she successfully secured $10-15 million per year in public funds for TNC's conservation work in Maine, and then as Director of External Affairs, where she managed the Chapter's policy initiatives, public partnerships and marketing efforts. In addition, Kate has focused on the intersection of conservation and climate change. In 2015, she was part of TNC’s North America 50-State Climate Strategy, where she was responsible for the state-by-state rollout and integration of strategy into each state’s annual plan. She was also selected as the TNC U.S. Government Relations Cabinet’s first Vice Chair, a national team determining TNC's positions and strategy on U.S legislation.
Kate holds an undergraduate degree in Government and Sociology from Bowdoin College and a master’s degree from Tufts University's Department of Urban and Environmental Policy. In 2017, she was presented with the Tufts University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Graduate Alumni Outstanding Career and Service Achievement Award.
Early in her career, Kate served as a VISTA (Americorps) with Habitat for Humanity in Kansas City, Missouri; a program associate for the Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington, DC; and as a director at Cambridge United for Smoking Prevention for the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Kate then moved into congressional work, first working as Economic Development Director and then District Director for former Representative Marty Meehan (MA) and then as Economic Development Director for former Representative Tom Allen (ME).
Kate grew up in Philadelphia where she developed an early focus on social justice and community development. A Mainer since she moved to Phippsburg, Maine in 2000, Kate now lives with her family in Bath, Maine. Over the last 20 years, she has served on the boards of the Maine Center for Economic Policy and Family Focus Child Care Centers of Maine and has coached town recreation soccer and lacrosse. Kate’s favorite places in Maine (and maybe the planet) are TNC's Debsconeags Lakes Wilderness area and Popham Beach State Park. Her non-work time is most happy when she’s with her family, hosting good friends and exploring Maine’s conservation lands.
2023 brings new opportunities to invest in Maine’s climate resilience
By focusing on vulnerable communities, local government and small business, the Legislature can ensure our state makes the clean energy transition equitable.
This commentary first appeared in the Portland Press Herald on December 29, 2022.
Energy prices are front of mind for Mainers, and with good reason.
Winter weather is becoming increasingly unpredictable, and our reliance on fossil fuels to heat our homes and power the grid means we regularly feel the effects of global events in our wallets. The Legislature now appears poised to pass a bill to provide direct emergency relief to Mainers, which will alleviate some of the current pressure. If we want to avoid finding ourselves in the same situation again, we need to turn our attention to finding long-term solutions.
To achieve this, we should build on the clean energy and energy efficiency accomplishments of the past four years. In that time, Governor Mills and the Legislature have made tremendous strides toward helping Maine address our energy and climate crises, investing in home and business weatherization, heat pump incentives, electric transportation and clean electricity to reduce our reliance on costly fossil fuels. Now our lawmakers have an important opportunity to take that progress to the next level—making key investments to speed Maine’s clean energy transition. They should seize it.
To start, we should continue to diversity our electricity generation. Renewable energy has advanced substantially in recent years, becoming a cost-competitive source of electricity that can save all Mainers money. The Legislature should direct the Public Utilities Commission to procure additional solar and wind energy to lock in low electricity prices for ratepayers through long-term power purchase agreements.
With transportation contributing over half of Maine’s greenhouse gas emissions, lawmakers should also take steps to increase the supply of electric vehicles in the state. Adopting clean car and clean truck standards like those recently adopted by Vermont will ensure that Mainers have access to the latest models at auto dealerships in the coming years. We also need to provide robust funding for a range of clean transportation and heating measures, from Efficiency Maine’s rebate and financing programs to MaineDOT’s public and active transportation projects.
Through my participation in Maine’s Climate Council, I heard from Mainers from across the state who are urging us to take action now. By focusing on ensuring that modest-income Mainers, vulnerable communities, local governments and small businesses benefit first and most, the Legislature can help ensure Maine makes this transition equitably. By siting new clean energy infrastructure thoughtfully and strategically—prioritizing solar projects on brownfields and other degraded or developed lands, for example, we can move forward rapidly but also responsibly.
Measures like these can dramatically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Even then, Maine communities will continue facing the effects of climate change in the years ahead, whether in the form of sea level rise on the coast, unpredictable weather and seasonal shifts, or increased flooding of our roads and bridges.
It’s equally important that lawmakers continue investing in community resilience initiatives so our towns can rise to face these challenges. Programs like the Community Resilience Partnership and state support for municipal planning can make an enormous and critical difference throughout Maine.
A key opportunity in this regard is the Department of Environmental Protection’s municipal stream crossing grant program. Without additional funding for towns to upsize their culverts, the increasing frequency and intensity of storms in Maine will lead to more road washouts like we saw in Jackman this past summer. This under-the-radar program has funded close to 200 culvert upgrades from York to Fort Kent over the past eight years—but funding will soon run out without legislative action. It’s essential that we build on this and other successful programs, while taking full advantage of new federal funding opportunities.
The 131st Maine Legislature is taking important action to address high energy costs. Now, they should build on the progress of the past four years and make real headway toward addressing the root causes of our climate and energy crises. The new year and the new legislative session present a unique opportunity to do exactly this.
Thank You, Maine Delegation!
August 4, 2020
Today, President Donald Trump officially signed the Great American Outdoors Act, which will fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and make critical investments in our national park system and other public lands. This historic conservation victory will result in significant federal investment in nature and access to public lands. The bill demonstrated broad bipartisan support in Congress and passed with wide margins in both the House and the Senate.
Maine’s Congressional delegation each played important roles in passing the Great American Outdoors Act. Senator Susan Collins has championed the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) throughout her entire career in the Senate and her consistent support played a big role in passing this effort into law. Senator Angus King was a key co-sponsor of the Great American Outdoors Act and spent many hours drafting the language and advocating for it with Administration officials and his colleagues in the Senate. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree serves on the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees annual funding for LWCF and has worked tirelessly to boost and maintain funding for conservation. Congressman Jared Golden served as an original co-sponsor on the House bill and voted for permanent reauthorization back in 2019 as one of his first votes in Congress.
Over the last 50 years, Maine has received approximately $191.6 million in funding from LWCF. This support has permanently protected iconic Maine places like Acadia National Park, Grafton Notch, and Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park along with community boat launches, fishing access points, and parks. LWCF also encompasses the Forest Legacy Program, which focuses on protecting privately owned forest lands for public benefit. In Maine, the Forest Legacy Program has been a key aspect of our LWCF success by conserving more than 741,000 acres with $76 million.
The bill combines two conservation proposals that each have strong bipartisan support. The first provides full and permanent funding of $900 million each year for LWCF, an amount derived from offshore oil and gas revenues—not tax dollars. A recent economic analysis shows that every $1 million invested in LWCF could support between 16 and 30 jobs. Additionally, research on the impact of the LWCF shows that $1 spent generates $4 in economic value from natural resource goods and services alone.
The second part of the bill invests $1.9 billion annually for the next five years toward maintenance in national parks, other public lands and at the Bureau of Indian Education. Over $20 billion in direct visitor spending is disseminated each year to local communities adjacent to national park sites. A recent National Park Service study of maintenance investments in this legislation found that it will support an average of 40,300 direct jobs and a total of 100,100 direct and indirect jobs over the next five years.
Maine’s identity is rooted in our natural places—and so is our economy. Passage of this bill is an enormous victory for our state and represents many years of dedication to the benefits of conservation. Fully and permanently funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund will spark job creation and critical investment in Maine’s communities, economy, and future. Our organization thanks Maine’s Congressional delegation for their leadership in passing this bill.
Maine State Director in the News
Read Kate Dempsey's opinion pieces and stories.
Why We’re Celebrating Maine’s New Climate Action Plan
Bangor Daily News | Dec 01, 2020
The release of the Maine Climate Action Plan marks the end of an important year-long process to chart a positive, actionable plan to address a pressing challenge facing our state and the world. Read More