Maine DEP, The Nature Conservancy & Army Corps Announces $2.4 Million Awarded to Conserve Natural Resources in Maine

More than two million dollars will help 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 $2.4 million to help restore, enhance or preserve wetlands and other important habitats at 17 project sites.

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 third 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 like habitat, clean drinking water and flood control for people and for wildlife into the future.”

“This collaboration between Maine DEP, The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Army Corps is facilitating a systematic and strategic process for comprehensive compensation projects that are saving and strengthening our state’s highest value wetland habitats,” said Commissioner Patricia Aho of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. “In just a few years, this program has become one of Maine’s most meaningful tools used in partnership by conservationists and developers to ensure important environmental protections. It’s a win-win for Maine’s natural environment, and its economic one.”

“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 is the third round of awards from the Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program to advance important land and water conservation around the state. More than 2,300 acres of land will be conserved or restored statewide.

•In rural Penobscot County, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will protect more than 2,000 acres of habitat, expanding the Mattawamkeag River System Wildlife Management Area. The majority of the property is wetland associated with the river and with Eagle Pond. Nesting bald eagles and rare Clayton’s copper butterflies – verified at just eleven sites worldwide – have been seen in the area.

•In the Midcoast, a DIFW restoration project on Maquoit Stream in Brunswick will restore a wetland that will serve as habitat for migratory fish as well saltmarsh sparrow (a Maine Species of Special Concern) and other birds, with the removal of a small earthen dam and reestablishment of a natural stream channel and more than 10 acres of wetlands.

•In Southern Maine, the York Land Trust will protect just more than 22 acres within the watershed of Boulter Pond, which supplies drinking water for thousands of residents of Kittery, York and Eliot. The area is also important habitat for woodpeckers and great blue herons.

And the Great Works Regional Land Trust will protect 83 additional acres in South Berwick as part of the ongoing Mount Agamenticus to the Sea conservation effort. These wetland areas provide some of Maine’s best habitat for Blandings and spotted turtles.

•In Franklin County, the Androscoggin Land Trust will protect 42 acres of forestland in the town of Jay as part of their “Expanding the Androscoggin Greenway Project.” The property will be managed for wildlife habitat, water quality protection, and low-impact recreation.

Other award recipients include: Atlantic Salmon Federation, Maine Council; Blue Hill Heritage Trust; Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust; Georges River Land Trust; Greater Lovell Land Trust; Kennebec Land Trust; Sebasticook Regional Land Trust; Trout Unlimited; Western Foothills Land Trust; and the towns of Wells and Falmouth.

How the grants were awarded: 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.

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