Nearly two million dollars to conserve some of Maine’s most vulnerable natural resources are ready and waiting. The Nature Conservancy is now seeking inquiries from entities capable of restoring, enhancing, preserving, or creating wetlands and other important habitats in Maine.
The Conservancy administers the Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program in collaboration with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The program was created to help offset unavoidable impacts on protected natural resources at one site by funding the restoration or preservation of similar resources at another.
“This is an important step forward for wetland conservation in Maine,” said Mike Tetreault, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Maine. “By stepping up efforts to preserve and restore our wetland habitats, this program helps to ensure their resiliency in the face of climate change.”
The Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program provides a new source of funding for the restoration and preservation of wetlands and other natural resources, balancing loss at one site with conservation at a site nearby to maintain ecological benefits.
“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.”
The Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program provides regulatory flexibility for agencies to approve a fee in lieu of traditional on-site mitigation. Previously, site-specific mitigation for many projects has had limited ecological value due to their size, location, and/or permittee’s ability to provide appropriate stewardship.
“After all efforts have been made to avoid or minimize those impacts, this program will provide 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 will be used to restore, enhance, preserve or create aquatic resources and their associated uplands.”
Wetland habitats perform a vital role in nature. Salt marshes, for example, provide a natural buffer to storms and flooding, and supply nutrients to native vegetation, fish and wildlife. In Lieu Fees are collected by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and then transferred to the Natural Resource Conservation Fund, administered by The Nature Conservancy.
The request for Letters of Intent announced today represents the first opportunity for public agencies, non-profit conservation organizations, and private individuals to apply, through a competitive process, to use these funds for restoration and preservation in Maine. Letters of Intent must be submitted by September 15, 2009.
How the program works: Letters of Intent received by the deadline will be evaluated by a Review Committee, convened by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and consisting of public and non-profit entities. Applicants that are determined to meet the requirements of the program will then be invited to submit Full Proposals. These proposals will be evaluated and ranked by the Review Committee, and final fund allocation decisions will be made by an Approval Committee, comprised of state and federal agencies. Once the restoration or preservation projects are chosen, The Nature Conservancy is responsible for seeing that the projects are executed and that long term stewardship is assured.
The Nature Conservancy plays no role in determining which wetland impacts are assessed an In Lieu Fee, nor does it vote with the Review Committee or Approval Committee on how the funds are used. The Nature Conservancy was selected through a competitive request for proposal process.
Click here for more information on the Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program, including Request for Letters of Intent packages.
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.