The Island Institute was founded in 1983 by Peter Ralston and Philip Conkling. At first, the organization provided forestry and conservation services to landowners of Maine islands.

Soon, however, the mission of the Island Institute shifted. The organization now focuses on supporting and maintaining the year-round communities on Maine’s islands. That work has evolved over the years, and now encompasses six work areas: community development, economic development, education, energy, marine resources, and media. In each of these areas, the Island Institute considers local leadership critical to a program’s success.

In the 32 years since the Institute was founded, its staff has grown from two to nearly 50. The annual operating budget of the organization has grown from $20,000 to over $5.5 million, and it has made a significant impact in Maine's island communities.

Island Institute staff at our picnic

Today, under the leadership of president Rob Snyder, the Island Institute’s work remains rooted in Maine, but has expanded through partnerships with similar communities off the coast of the Carolinas, Alaska, Maryland, and elsewhere. With more than 150,000 year-round islanders in the United States, there is no shortage of interest in the Institute’s work or partners for its programming.