Skip Maine state header navigation
Department of Conservation Establishes Maine's First Ecological Reserves
AUGUSTA, Maine - (January 9, 2001) The Department of Conservation's Bureau of Parks and Lands designated 13 tracts totaling 68,974 acres today as Maine's first Ecological Reserves. Located statewide on Maine's Public Reserved Lands, the ecological reserves will protect one or more natural ecosystems that are relatively undisturbed, and retain plant and animal communities native to Maine in their natural condition. These ecological reserves will serve as benchmarks for comparison with managed lands, maintain habitats, and provide opportunities for education, monitoring and research.
The Maine Legislature authorized the establishment of ecological reserves last year with the provision that traditional uses including hiking, hunting and fishing continue. Following today's designation, the Maine Natural Areas Program, working with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the state's scientific community, will establish a monitoring plan. Maine is now positioned to protect and study these ecological systems in their natural state, and the research will have applications in a variety of areas including land management and habitat restoration.
"These 13 ecological reserves represent an appropriate use of public lands that will contribute to biological diversity while providing insight into how these ecological systems function," states Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands Director Thomas Morrison.
As part of the Maine Forest Biodiversity Project (MFBP), the natural features within the reserves were identified during a statewide inventory of ecologically significant areas conducted from 1995 to1998 on public and private conservation land in Maine. The MFBP brought together a diverse group of landowners, conservationists, sportsmen, scientists, public and private land mangers, and educators who shared a common goal to maintain biodiversity in Maine. Assessing the opportunity to establish ecological reserves on public lands was one of the Project's goals, and, in 2000, the Maine State Legislature passed LD 477 that authorized BPL to designate up to 15 percent of Maine's public lands as ecological reserves.
The ecological reserve legislation allows research, education and non-motorized recreation activities to continue, and permits traditional recreational uses including hunting, fishing, hiking and other compatible activities. Use of existing snowmobile and ATV trails may continue if impacts to the ecological values are minimal. Commercial mining, timber harvesting, and commercial sand and gravel excavation are uses that the legislation deemed incompatible with the purposes of the ecological reserves and are not allowed. However, 69% of the reserve areas being designated are not capable of sustained timber harvesting because of elevation, slope or wetlands and water.
"This is a dramatic culmination of years of systematic and thoughtful work to protect Maine's ecological diversity," says Dr. Malcolm Hunter, Professor of Wildlife Ecology at the University of Maine. The Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund and two key proponents of ecological reserves, The Nature Conservancy and Natural Resources Council of Maine, will provide funding for the monitoring effort. "An important next step for these reserves will be the initiation of long-term ecological monitoring," remarks Natural Areas Program Director Molly Docherty. "We are looking forward to this historic endeavor that will enrich our knowledge base of Maine's natural communities."
- 30 -