As the Maine Sunday Telegram highlights Maine’s 2009 conservation accomplishments, a working group is completing a pitch for federal funding of conservation in that state’s North Woods.
From the Maine Sunday Telegram:
What began with low expectations and uncertainty about the economy ended as a big year for land conservation in Maine, with tens of thousands of acres of farmland, forest and lakefronts permanently preserved statewide in 2009, according to conservation advocates.
The deals range from landscape-scale purchases in the North Woods to strategic protection efforts in the more populated southern part of the state.
(That story was written before TPL announced the conservation of 10,000 acres at Stowe Mountain and Robinson Peak this morning.)
One impetus to these conservation accomplishments may have been the “green lining” in the current real estate downturn, which we have blogged on before, most recently here.
In York, for example, a coalition of land trusts raised more than $3 million and preserved the 151-acre Highland Farm, a tract of fields and forest habitat near the York River estuary and a pond that supplies drinking water to three communities.
The farm had long ago been identified as one of the last large undeveloped coastal tracts in the region. But when it was put on the auction block in 2003, a developer beat out conservationists and bought it, said Wolfe Tone, state director for the Trust for Public Land in Maine.
The developer submitted plans for 38 building lots on the property and already had permits to begin the first phase before agreeing to sell to conservationists.
“We got another run at it, and we turned it right around,” Tone said. “He was going to go ahead (and build) if we didn’t get it.”
In Maine’s North Woods, conservation successes have developed from coalition-building between conservationists, forestry interests, and local residents; and a story this morning in the Bangor Daily News highlights such coalition-building as key to possible federal funding for North Woods conservation.
After months of discussion and several promising meetings with Obama administration officials, a working group is completing a pitch for federal funding for “landscape-scale” conservation in Maine’s North Woods that would also strengthen the state’s forest products industry.
Last summer during a visit to Maine, U.S. Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar expressed interest in hearing suggestions about how the federal government could help Maine preserve large swaths of forestland.
But Salazar made clear that any proposal would need a broad base of support that includes landowners and industry.
The story suggests that federal conservation in the North Woods will probably not take the form of a big national park, such as has been proposed by advocates over the last few years.
“At its heart, this is a proposal to maintain a sustainably managed forest landscape, which continues to produce wood products and protects ecological values, while maintaining and improving recreational opportunities,” reads a draft outline of the report.
What the Great Maine Forest Initiative is not proposing, coalition members and state officials insist, is a national park, a national forest or any other significant expansion of public lands in Maine.
Suggestions for another national park in Maine are “a no-starter with me,” Gov. John Baldacci said this week. “I am proud of Maine’s leadership and what we have been able to do on our own … We would be using federal dollars, and the attraction of the federal government is the opportunity to have conservation on a landscape scale.”
The proposal calls for working with landowners to protect land largely through conservation easements. Some “special places,” such as old-growth forests or areas with particular value from a recreational or ecological standpoint, could be purchased from willing property owners with the help of federal dollars.
The goal is “to protect anywhere from 500,000 to 2 million acres of working forests in the largest unfragmented forest east of the Mississippi River” and may serve as a model for funding other working-forest conservation.