Vol. 5, No. 2
Coastal lands, forests chosen by Maine preservation program
By Andi Rierden, Editor
A total of 144,494 acres (577,976 hectares) of land from southern to northern Maine has crossed the first hurdle toward receiving protection under a state land preservation pro-gram. Earlier this year, board members for Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) selected 28 parcels of land, which contain tidal estuaries, farmlands, forests and a five-mile trail system, in the first round of a $50 million conservation campaign approved by voters two years ago.
Before any state money is awarded, each project must complete a list of requirements such as a fair market appraisal, survey and legal work, said Mark DesMeules, the director of the LMF program. He added that it could take up to a year to approve the projects. All of the state money must be support-ed by matching funds.
The parcels range from the largest, 72,000 acres in the Moosehead Lake region, to the smallest, 25 acres in Dresden along the Merrymeeting River. This round totals $12 million in state financing. The board is seeking proposals for another $8 million round, then $10 million a year for three years.
Without question, the campaign is having a long-lasting impact on Maine’s landscape. In 1987 voters approved a similar referendum establishing the $35 million program to acquire land for open space and recreation. Since that time, 90,000 acres of land in all of the state’s 16 counties have been protected. When the funds ran out in 1999, a consortium of conservation and outdoor groups, supported by businesses dependent on outdoor recreation, campaigned for a $50 million bond referendum to restock it.
“The level of support for this program was demonstrated by an overwhelming vote,” DesMeules said, adding that the referendum, held last November, was approved in every county.
Many of the properties are located in coastal and southern Maine where development pressures are especially intense. In York County they include 2,269 acres in the Mount Agamenticus region, 660 acres adjacent to a wildlife preserve in Kennebunk and Sanford, and 8,000 acres in the Leavitt Plantation forest in Parsonsfield.
In Greater Portland the board chose the 180-acre Fuller Farm property in Scarborough, the 103-acre Presumpscot River Preserve and the 81- acre Robinson Woods in Cape Elizabeth.
Susy Kist, the executive director of the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust, describes the mature forest that harbors an intact vernal pool and 300 year old hemlock, “like walking through a natural cathedral.” Last fall, the land trust purchased the woodland and an adjacent shorefront parcel for $750,000, half of its appraised price. Its former owner, John M. Robinson, a long standing conservation-ist, purchased the property in the 1930s and had left it undeveloped.
“John Robinson made the dream of conserving this beautiful property ten minutes from downtown Portland a real-ity,” Kist says. “It’s a tremendous contribution.”
The land trust has requested $250,000 from LMF. Last fall the Cape Elizabeth Town Council voted unanimously to contribute $250,000 to the project. Kist says the organization is rais-ing money for the remaining funds to pay off its mortgage and create a stew-ardship fund to manage the area.
Other coastal lands include the Trufant-Summerton Long Reach Forest on Great Island in Harpswell. The 95- acre parcel contains freshwater wetlands, extensive mature forests and almost a half mile of tidal flat. The property is adjacent to a state forest and large conservation property. Altogether the block will total 500 acres of protected land, says Rob Bryan, an ecologist for Maine Audubon and vice president of the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, which owns the property.
“Not much of Harpswell’s shoreline is protected,” he added. “From a Gulf of Maine perspective this property has very productive clam flats and is an important spot for shorebirds and waterfowl.”
For information about the process of submitting a proposal to the LMF pro-gram contact DesMeules at the Maine State Planning Office, 1-800-662-4545 or go to: www.state.me.us/spo/lmf.