Private Sector Answer to Public Needs

Maine has one of the most active land trust communities in the nation, with more land trusts per capita than any other state.

Collectively, Maine’s 75+ land conservation organizations have conserved a little more than 2.5 million acres of the state.

  • 600,000 acres: lands owned by land trusts as preserves and areas available to the public for outdoor recreation.
  • 1,900,000 acres: lands privately-owned and on the tax rolls, protected with conservation easements. The terms of these easements vary by property, but generally limit development and require the protection of natural resources. Most of this acreage is managed as working forest, available to the public for hiking, hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities.

In areas of Maine, like Lincoln County, where the amount of public land is far below the state average of 6.5%, land trust properties such as the Midcoast Conservancy’s Bass Falls Preserve in Alna provide the public with guaranteed access to a high percentage of the available opportunities that exist for hiking, fishing, birdwatching, hunting, and other outdoor recreational activities.

Maine Has Very Little Public Land

One reason why Maine has such an active land trust community is because Maine has the lowest percentage of public lands among states east of the Appalachian Mountains. At 6.5%, it is also one of the lowest percentages in the country, lower than 37 other states.

Most states rely heavily on government, at all levels, to acquire and manage public lands to meet the needs and desires of their citizens to secure public access to the outdoors. In Maine, where government land ownership is low, land trusts have stepped up to meet this demand by acquiring many publicly accessible lands without government support and by partnering with government to purchase and manage new and existing public properties.

For many parts of the country, the burden of public access to the outdoors is mostly the responsibility of government and taxpayers. To the contrary, thanks to land trusts, Maine people now enjoy more places to hunt, hike, fish, snowmobile, ATV, picnic, birdwatch, walk their dogs, and enjoy nature through a system where the burden of costs are shared significantly by the private sector, as well.

Public Land: % of State
East Coast States

  • Florida 25.2%
  • New Jersey 18.7%
  • New Hampshire 17.1%
  • New York 16.7%
  • Pennsylvania 15.8%
  • Vermont 15.3%
  • South Carolina 10.2%
  • Massachusetts 10.0%
  • Virginia 9.4%
  • Maryland 9.0%
  • North Carolina 9.0%
  • Delaware 8.7%
  • Connecticut 8.4%
  • Rhode Island 7.9%
  • Georgia 6.8%
  • Maine 6.5%

Based on numbers from “Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data” a 2017 Congressional Report and information collected from state websites.

In July 2017, Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) surveyed members of the Maine Land Trust Network, which includes most of the State’s land trust community. 70 organizations participated. Data from a 2015 MCHT land trust census was used to fill in gaps for those organizations that did not complete the survey.

Read the full report (4 MB PDF)

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