In its inaugural round of grants, the Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program has awarded nearly two million dollars to help 11 public and non-profit groups move forward on important resource protection projects across Maine.
The Maine Natural Resource of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – which is administered by The Nature Conservancy in collaboration with the Maine Department of Envronmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – announced awards totaling $1.8 million to help restore, enhance or preserve wetlands and other important habitats at 16 project sites from South Berwick to Argyle and from Sebago to Ellsworth.
“At a time of limited resources, this program has awarded crucial funding that will allow us to preserve a diversity of wetlands, waterfowl and wading bird habitat, and deer wintering areas,” said John Pratte of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “The funding also enables our Department to begin restoration projects that increase wetland health and function.”
“As an organization working to restore fish passage in Maine streams, this new funding program is critically important to our work,” said Andrew Goode of the Atlantic Salmon Federation. “Our grant allows us to finish the construction of a fishway on Blackman Stream, so sea-run fish can have access to their historical spawning habitat for the first time in over 200 years.”
The program was created to help offset unavoidable impacts on protected natural resources by funding the restoration or preservation of similar resources to maintain ecological benefits. It provides regulatory flexibility for agencies to approve a fee in lieu of traditional mitigation options. In Lieu Fees are collected by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and then transferred to the Natural Resource Conservation Fund at The Nature Conservancy.
“This is an important step forward for the conservation of aquatic resources in Maine,” said Alex Mas, who manages the program for The Nature Conservancy in Maine. “Traditional mitigation projects can often be scattered, small or poorly located; this program allows us to focus wetland preservation and restoration in priority areas and help to ensure their resiliency in the face of climate change and other threats.”
“The real take home message is that we will be able to conserve more of the highest value wetland habitats in Maine,” said David Littell, Commissioner of Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection. “In some cases, land developers had to find offsite compensation properties on their own; they now have the option to use this program to compensate the public for the loss of significant wetland and wildlife values.”
“After all efforts have been made to avoid or minimize those impacts, this program provides permit applicants an efficient and workable alternative while providing a better outcome for our wetland habitats,” said Ruth Ladd, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District. “The fees are then used to restore, enhance, preserve or create aquatic resources and their associated uplands.”
The inaugural grantees are: Atlantic Salmon Federation, the Chewonki Foundation, Great Works Regional Land Trust, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Maine Coastal Habitat Foundation, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance, Three Rivers Land Trust, Town of Falmouth, Trust for Public Land and the Western Foothills Land Trust.
Public agencies, non-profit conservation organizations and private individuals applied, through a competitive process, for funding from this program for restoration and preservation projects in Maine. Proposals were evaluated and ranked by a Review Committee, which was convened by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and made up of public and non-profit entities. The final funding decisions were made this week by an Approval Committee, which was comprised of state and federal agencies.
The Nature Conservancy administered the process and is responsible for seeing that the projects are executed. The Conservancy did not vote as part of the Review Committee or Approval Committee on which proposals were approved for funding.
A second round of awards, and request for proposals, is expected to be announced later this year.
For more information about the Maine Natural Resource Conservation program, visit http://www.maine.gov/dep/blwq/docstand/nrpa/ILF_and_NRCP/MNRCP/index.htm.
For more information about The Nature Conservancy’s work in Maine, visit nature.org/maine.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.