More than two million dollars will help 15 public and non profit groups restore and protect high priority wetlands and other natural resources across Maine.
The Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program – which is administered by The Nature Conservancy in collaboration with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – announced awards totaling $2.1 million to help restore, enhance or preserve wetlands and other important habitats at 16 project sites.
“At a time of limited resources, this program has awarded crucial funding that will allow us to add wetland, waterfowl and wading bird habitat to a popular Wildlife Management Area near Augusta,” said Jim Connolly of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “The funding also enables our Department to begin restoration work designed to enhance water quality and wetland health.”
“As a local, non-profit organization, we rely on programs like this to conserve lands of ecological, agricultural, or educational significance in the greater York area,” said Doreen MacGillis of the York Land Trust. “With this grant in hand, we will help to safeguard our community’s drinking water supply and undertake our first project to restore habitat for rare turtles in the heart of the Mount Agamenticus region.”
The program provides flexibility for both regulators and the regulated community to choose a fee in lieu of more time-intensive traditional mitigation options. These so-called 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 second round of grants is another 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 mitigation funds in high priority areas to help ensure they continue to provide important benefits for people and for wildlife into the future.”
“The real take home message is that we are able to conserve more of the highest value wetland habitats in Maine,” said Beth Nagusky, Acting 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 wetland impacts, this program provides permit applicants an efficient and workable alternative to traditional mitigation, 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 used to restore, enhance, preserve or create aquatic resources and their associated uplands.”
This second round of awards from the Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program will advance important land and water conservation around the state. In Southern Maine, the City Biddeford will preserve vernal pools and add land to the city’s Clifford Park. In Central Maine, the Sebasticook Regional Land Trust will protect a key part of a rare wetland in Unity. Along the Midcoast, the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust will protect wetland habitat and part of a popular recreation trail in the City of Bath, while the Kennebec County Soil and Water Conservation District will help to replace a badly perched culvert, enhancing wetlands and restoring fish passage, in Bremen.
Other award recipients include: the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance, Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, Great Works Regional Land Trust, Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, Kennebunkport Conservation Trust, Royal River Conservation Trust, Town of Falmouth, Town of Sullivan, and Town of Wells Conservation Commission.
Public agencies, non-profit conservation organizations and municipalities 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 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.
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.