In late May, the Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) Board approved twenty conservation projects across the state to preserve public access to lakes, rivers, scenic views, and mountain vistas.
With the selection of 20 new projects, the Land for Maine’s Future program has now approved a total of 25 new projects (the board approved five statewide conservation proposals in January of 2022) since the Governor and Legislators from both parties reinvigorated the program in 2021 with $40 million in new funding through the biennial budget.
“Each of these projects represents an exceptional opportunity for us to get outdoors and to protect public access for the enjoyment of generations to come,” said Governor Janet Mills. “I am proud that the State of Maine is once again partnering with towns across Maine to preserve our cherished lands and waters for Maine people.”
The 25 projects approved in 2022 can be found in 12 of Maine’s 16 counties, including six in Cumberland, five in Oxford, three in Hancock, two in both Aroostook and York, and one in Franklin, Knox, Washington, Waldo, Sagadahoc, and Androscoggin Counties. As the applicants complete their due diligence and work with the program to finalize these diverse proposals over the next year or so, Maine people will begin to enjoy greater access to the outdoors.
Thus far, LMF has allocated more than $8 million, or 20% of the funds approved by lawmakers in 2021. The program expects these investments to be matched with more than $24 million in funding that the applicants will raise from other public and private sources. This combined $32 million will result in more than 13,600 acres of new conservation lands. Nearly 7,900 acres will be managed by the state, a municipality, or a land trust, while another 5,700 acres will remain privately owned, with conservation easements that guarantee public access as well as the protection of wildlife habitat and water quality. Additional projects focused on conserving working lands are expected to seek funding later this year.
When the Governor and the legislature approved new funding last year, they made a few adjustments to the program’s criteria, including an emphasis on community conservation. The community focus was designed to encourage more conservation closer to where people live and work. It is clear the recent applicants took this recommendation to heart, as most of the proposals seek to acquire properties near urban areas, adjacent to local schools, and in proximity to village centers.
The 20 projects approved by the LMF Board in late May were:
- East Windham Conservation Project: This 661-acre parcel in Maine’s most densely populated region is a fee acquisition by the Town of Windham, supporting vital ecological functions, providing water access, and including scenic views of distant mountains.
- Jockey Cap: This 15.6-acre parcel is a fee acquisition by the Town of Fryeburg supporting low-impact recreational opportunities in the heart of its downtown with panoramic views from the top of a prominent dome.
- North Deering Conservation & Recreation Land: This 16-acre parcel is a fee acquisition by the City of Portland, featuring urban open space and an existing informal urban trail network.
- Talking Brook Public Lands: This 156-acre parcel in New Gloucester is a fee acquisition by the Bureau of Parks and Lands featuring an existing trail system between Portland and Lewiston/Auburn and will be combined with a separate 37-acre property to form the new Talking Brook Public Land Unit.
- Plaisted Preserve Expansion: This 7.14-acre parcel is a fee acquisition by the Town of Owls Head to expand Plaisted Preserve and the existing trail system within a quarter mile of the Owls Head village center.
- McLellan Property: This 63.9-acre parcel is a fee acquisition by the Town of Searsmont, creating trails and water access in the town’s village adjacent to municipal buildings and includes approximately 1,200 feet of Georges River frontage.
- Staples Woodlands: This 83.5-acre parcel in Oxford is a fee acquisition by the Western Foothills Land Trust located near schools and the downtown. It includes approximately 1,140 feet of river frontage, an important snowmobile trail juncture, and trails for hiking, snowshoeing, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing.
- Whitney Forest: This 370-acre parcel in Ellsworth is a fee acquisition by Frenchman Bay Conservancy, featuring a trail network adjacent to the high school and an existing bike trail.
- Bittner: This 165-acre in West Bath is a fee acquisition by Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, featuring a network of multi-use trails and a large forest and wetland habitat block.
- Camp Gustin: This 95-acre parcel in Sabattus is a fee acquisition by Androscoggin Land Trust, featuring primitive camping and other low impact recreation opportunities as well as shoreline and wetland habitat abutting existing conservation land.
- Johnson Brook-Sisk: This 56-acre parcel in Kittery is a fee acquisition by Kittery Land Trust that expands the Mt. Agamenticus to the Sea initiative and protects wetland and forested wildlife habitats.
- Thayer Brook Preserve: This 147-acre parcel in Gray is a fee acquisition by Royal River Conservation Trust that includes important habitat for a species of special concern, extends trails, adds additional access to the existing Libby Hill Forest trail network, and protects a critical segment of the local snowmobile and ATV trail.
- Tondreau Project: This 57.2 parcel is a fee acquisition by Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, maintaining coastal water quality, protecting a rare plant species, and providing trail access in an area of the state receiving high development pressure.
- Bauneg Beg Mountain Recreation Area: This 61-acre project is a fee acquisition by the Town of North Berwick in partnership with the Great Works Regional Land Trust and contains the highest summit of 866-foot Bauneg Beg Mountain, completing conservation of the mountain’s three summits and protecting a rare plant species.
- Kezar Corridor Lands-Patterson Hill: This 357-acre project is a fee acquisition by Greater Lovell Land Trust, featuring expansive mountain views from Patterson Hill, and includes part of a snowmobile and ATV recreational trail network, with plans to develop a hiking trail.
- Muddy River Forests: This 1,357-acre proposal includes easements held by Loon Echo Land Trust protecting large undeveloped habitat blocks in the Portland Water District watershed.
- Porter Hills: Five parcels, totaling 596-acres, in Porter, will be acquired in fee by Francis Small Heritage Trust featuring forest and wetland habitat, including rare plants and natural communities, and a network of trails accessing scenic mountain summits.
- Fort O’Brien Historic Site Addition: This 6-acre parcel adjacent to the elementary school in Machiasport is a fee acquisition by the Bureau of Parks and Lands, expanding a state historic site that sees 6,000 – 7,000 visitors annually.
- Great Pond Mountain Wildlands Expansion: This 501-acre parcel in Orland and Bucksport is a fee acquisition by Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust, expanding the existing 4,230-acre Great Pond Mountain Wildlands and including an undeveloped shoreline on the Dead River.
- Wallamatogus Mountain Community Forest: This 336-acre parcel in Penobscot is a fee acquisition by Blue Hill Heritage Trust, featuring the second-highest peak on the Blue Hill peninsula, great hiking combined with birding, blueberry picking, and hunting.
During the recent pandemic, existing public lands, open spaces, and land trust preserves have grown more crowded. With over two dozen new LMF projects already approved in 2022, and many additional ones being prepared for future funding rounds, Maine people will soon have guaranteed access to a growing list of places to explore as they enjoy Maine’s incredible natural beauty.