Maine Residents Raise Millions for Land Conservation

PORTLAND, Maine, August 22, 2001 (ENS) - With $50 million already in hand for its campaign to purchase coastal lands of environmental importance, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, a statewide land conservation organization, has set a goal of $100 million.

The Campaign for the Coast is a five year $100 million effort to protect lands the trust has identified as essential to the region's way of life.

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Jordan's Delight Island in Milbridge is one of 325 islands protected by Maine Coast Heritage Trust. (Photo by Sara Gray courtesy Maine Coast Heritage Trust)
"Land conservation is more than preserving wildlife and scenic views that inspire us, it brings together people from all walks of life for the common good of the community," said Jay Espy, president of Maine Coast Heritage Trust.

Maine's current economic boom is benefiting coastal communities, but Espy says it is changing Maine's traditional way of life. "Popular shore access points and inspiring water views are lost as remaining open space is disappearing at a rate of approximately 100 acres per day," he says. Roughly 95 percent of Maine is held in private ownership.

The most ecologically critical lands along the coast are together worth much more than $100 million on the open market today, so Espy says that every dollar raised by the trust will have to be stretched and leveraged many times over by other factors such as bargain sales, land donations, and state and federal programs.

The unspoiled character of Maine's coastal communities is critical to local and state economies. According to the State Planning Office, more than eight million people visit Maine annually, and of the $2.7 billion tourist generated dollars a year, 80 percent is spent at the coast. coast

Summer on the coast of Maine near Kennebunkport (Photo courtesy Town of Kennebunk)
The Maine Coast Heritage Trust partners with local land trusts, landowners, governments and communities throughout Maine to conserve natural coastlands and cultural treasures. The campaign will accelerate the conservation of special places in Maine, such as the land trust's protection of Frenchboro Long Island.

Frenchboro is one of three offshore island communities in Maine where the 45 year round residents still make their living from fishing. When the land went on the market for $3 million in August 1999, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust was contacted by Frenchboro Town Selectmen asking for help conserving the land and the way of life enjoyed by the island's 45 inhabitants.

The Island Institute, Maine Coast Sea Mission and Maine Coast Heritage Trust worked with local residents to acquire the land. The groups raised $3 million in less than nine months - more private money than has ever been raised for any island conservation effort in Maine.

"The project was a lifesaver," said David Lunt, Frenchboro's First Selectman. "If the land had gone into development, it would have meant more money for the community, but it wouldn't have been Frenchboro anymore."

Now the Frenchboro preserve includes headlands, cobble beaches, spruce and fir forests, wetlands and 5.5 miles of wild shoreline trails.

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Salt Pond, preserved by Frenchman Bay Conservancy (Photo by Barb Welch courtesy Maine Land Trust Network)
With 88 land trust organizations active in the state, Maine has one of the strongest land trust communities in the country.

The Kennebunkport Conservation Trust which works to conserve natural areas near the town favored by President George W. Bush and his famous family for their vacations, is typical of land trusts in Maine. It is a community organization overseen by a board of trustees and administered by an executive director. Since it started in 1974, the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust has protected 50 properties through direct purchase, donations, and conservation easements.

Land trust members publish newsletters, serve beans, sponsor concerts, hold yard sales, raffle goods ranging from art work to books to autographed memorabilia, host gatherings of all sorts, and stuff envelopes with requests for funds, all to purchase the lands they see as vital to their ecosystems.

Some of the 88 land trusts in Maine, such as the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust and the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, have colorful websites and dozens of parcels that they have purchased or been given to conserve.

Others do not even have email, yet they have found ways to protect perhaps just one precious natural resource. The Webb Lake Association owns just one 160 acre parcel but it protects lands of vital importance to water supplies and water quality and areas of recognized ecological, recreational, scenic and historic value around Webb Lake in southwestern Maine.

"Maine's coast is a place where individuals and communities have forged strong ties to the land," said Espy. "This campaign is about maintaining and strengthening that connection - and the important livelihoods and outdoor traditions that go with it."

Maine Coast Heritage Trust extends protection to a broad spectrum of conservation values - recreational use such as traditional shore access points, scenic enjoyment including favorite roadside vistas, ecological protection such as wildlife habitat, and productive land use that supports traditional occupations such as fishing, farming, and forestry.

To locate a land trust in Maine, visit the Maine Land Trust Network at: http://www.mltn.org