The Island Heritage Trust is a non-profit private land trust dedicated to conservation that protects significant open space, scenic areas, wildlife habitats, natural resources, and historic and cultural features that offer public benefit and are essential to the character of the Deer Isle area.
Our membership is open to all. We are funded by the tax-deductible charitable contributions of our members. A board of 14 volunteer members governs the Trust through its Chair and Executive Director and staff.
IHT contributes to the well-being of the island community by conserving its distinctive landscapes and natural resources, maintaining public access to valued trails, shoreline and islands, and by providing educational programming for all ages.
Island Heritage Trust was founded in 1987 by citizens concerned about protecting Deer Isle from acute development pressure that threatened to cut off residents from the shore and traditional use of the land.
In the intervening years, the Trust has taken in, through voluntary donation, conservation easements on over 771 acres of shore land, wildlife habitat, islands, and forests, protecting over 13 miles of shore.
At the same time, IHT has taken ownership of eighteen properties from Mark Island with its lighthouse, Settlement Quarry, and Causeway Beach. Our offices are now in our own building next to the Deer Isle-Stonington Historical Society in Sunset.
After several part-time Executive Directors, Mac Herrling was hired as its first full-time “ED” in December, 2003. His hiring began a process to go with professional management and to boost our stewardship fund to take care of the preserves and conservation easements we protect in perpetuity.
Mike Little served as IHT’s second Executive Director from 2008 – 2018. In 2018, Paul Miller was hired as IHT’s third Executive Director and worked for two years to meet the challenges of land trust management in this modern world. He left to return to his family in Rhode Island in June 2020.
Following Paul’s departure, the Board of Trustees asked Julia Zell (then IHT’s Development Director) to serve as interim Executive Director while they conducted a nation-wide search. Julia decided to formally apply for the position, and was officially appointed IHT’s Executive Director in September 2020.
Island Heritage Trust now has a year-round staff of five, bringing a further degree of professionalism to IHT’s operations and meeting the increasing demands of effectively stewarding the land we are sworn to protect, contributing to the well-being of the community, and furthering educational opportunities for all.
Island Heritage Trust became an accredited land trust in February 2022, a status that can be renewed every five years. Accreditation means Island Heritage Trust meets national quality standards of sound finances, ethical conduct, and responsible governance, and can ensure lasting stewardship. We are honored to be a part of the accredited conservation community and continue protecting important natural places and working lands forever.