The projects – which protect working lands, wildlife habitats, outdoor recreation opportunities, and public access to scenic views – are the first to be funded under an LMF program replenished by Governor Mills and Legislature
Augusta, ME (STL.News) Governor Janet Mills today announced five major Land for Maine’s Future conservation projects that protect working lands and wildlife habitat and that preserve public access to lakes, rivers, scenic views, and mountain vistas. The projects, which are located across the state, are the first to be selected by the Land for Maine’s Future Board since Governor Mills and the Legislature reinvigorated the program with $40 million in new State funding under Governor Mills’ most recent biennial budget.
The round of projects also reflects for the first time the goals of LD 404, An Act to Preserve Deer Habitat, which was approved by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor last year, by giving preferential consideration to projects that conserve deer wintering habitat. The Caribou Stream Deer Winter Area project, approved yesterday, will conserve 930 acres of priority deer wintering habitat in Woodland and Washburn in Aroostook County.
“This is an exciting moment for conservation in Maine,” said Governor Mills. “Maine people value the outdoors, and each of these projects represents an exceptional opportunity to preserve working land, expand opportunities for outdoor recreation, protect important deer habitat, and ensure public access for the enjoyment of future generations. I am proud that the State of Maine is once again preserving our cherished lands and waters in a meaningful way.”
“Yesterday, the Land For Maine’s Future Board approved the purchase of the Caribou Stream deer yard. This exciting announcement marks an historic moment in history and gives renewed hope to the people of Aroostook County and sportsmen and women across the state. This once iconic and abundant species is an important component of the northern Maine economy and culture,” said David Trahan, Executive Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. “The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine would like to thank Governor Mills and staff at the Department of Inland Fisheries, especially, Commissioner Camuso and Nate Webb, IFW Wildlife Division Director, for their leadership and passion implementing this important priority of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.”
The five projects, which total $3.0875 million, are:
- Buck’s Ledge Community Forest: This 634-acre parcel located in the town of Woodstock in Oxford County is accessible to major population centers in Maine and is popular for multiple recreation uses including hiking, rock climbing, hunting, and snowmobiling. Noteworthy natural features include a mountain ledge and rock ledges, which are home to nesting peregrines and rare species of plants. The property is being acquired by the Town of Woodstock and will be managed as community forest.
- The East Grand Lake Weston Conservation Easement: The largest of all the projects, this project covers 4,363 acres and more than 21 miles of shoreline on East Grand LakeDeering/Longfellow Lake, Brackett Lake and Sucker Lake, as well as the headwaters of the St. Croix International Waterway. The project encompasses public access for a wide range of recreational opportunities including hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, boating and hiking and offers the best view on Maine’s Million Dollar View Scenic Byway (US Route 1). This is the second and final phase of the East Grand Watershed Initiative that will conserve nearly 12,000 acres and 30 miles of undeveloped shoreline.
- Kennebago Headwaters: This 1,723 parcel will help protect the headwaters of the Kennebago River, becoming part of the larger Kennebago Headwaters project that includes over 10,000 acres and protecting nearly the entire Kennebago watershed. The area provides some of the highest quality habitat for eastern brook trout, and the river annually attracts thousands of anglers. Conservation of this land will also protect habitat for many wildlife species including moose, deer, Canada lynx, marten, upland birds, and waterfowl.
- The Kennebec Highlands: This project encompasses 813 acres in the towns of Vienna and New Sharon and fills in the largest gap in the Kennebec Highlands Public Reserved Land. The land features a mountain summit with 360-degree views, and large blueberry fields for commercial and recreational picking. The highlands are the divide between the Kennebec and Androscoggin River watersheds, and the project includes more than 6,000 acres of conserved land that provides public access for fishing, hunting, trapping, hiking, mountain biking, running, skiing, snowmobiling, berry picking and horseback riding. The area is within 15 miles of Augusta and Waterville.
- Caribou Stream Deer Wintering Area: This Caribou Stream Deer Wintering Area proposal will conserve 930 acres of priority deer wintering habitat in the towns of Woodland and Washburn, in Aroostook County, as well as 1.8 miles of stream habitat for wild brook trout. There is also an existing hiking and snowmobile trail on the area. The area will be managed for habitat needs for deer throughout the year in order to increase deer survival rates through the winter. The project protects two large parcels of prime wildlife habitat in an area of high agricultural use that will be benefit not only deer but also brook trout. This area was identified as a conservation priority based on historical and current day deer wintering habits.
“These projects protect the public’s access to wilderness in Maine, preserving our proud history of outdoor recreation and essential wildlife habitats at the same time,” said Judy Camuso, Commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “I join Governor Mills in celebrating these conservation projects which will offer Mainers and visitors access to some very special places in the state of Maine.”
“Projects like the five approved today greatly benefit Maine residents and visitors to our state,” said Amanda Beal, Commissioner of Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. “The support and investment of the Land for Maine’s Future program enables us to protect Maine’s wilderness areas, to support our working forests and farms, and to sustain our valued way of life.”
“The Land for Maine’s Future program is critical not only for the conservation of our state’s vulnerable wildlife habitat but also for the protection of Maine’s invaluable commercial waterfront,” said Pat Keliher, Land for Maine’s Future Board Chair and Commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources. “Today’s announcement represents an important investment in the character and quality of our state.”
The Land for Maine’s Future Program is the State of Maine’s primary method of conserving land for its natural and recreational value. The program was established in 1987 when Maine citizens approved a bond to fund $35 million for the purchase of lands, and the program’s priority is to conserve Maine landscape, recognizing that working lands and public access to these lands is critical to preserving Maine’s quality of life.
Since then, LMF has conserved nearly 604,000 acres of land, more than half of which – 333,425 acres – has been working lands. This includes 41 farms and 9,755 acres of farmlands and 26 commercial working waterfront properties, along with 1,272 miles of shorelines of rivers, lakes and ponds, 58 miles of coastline, and 158 miles of former railroad corridors for recreational trails.
Prior to the Governor’s and Legislature’s $40 million infusion, the fund was nearly depleted. Now that it is replenished, LMF can continue its robust conservation efforts, with Governor Mills announcing in October 2021 a call for proposals for the first since 2017.