All outdoor enthusiasts should be delighted to know that we’ve just announced the first five new conservation projects funded by the Land for Maine’s Future.
Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.
You know back in 1987, the Legislature recognized that protecting working lands, farmlands, waterfronts, and public access to those properties is critical to preserving our quality of life. Then Maine voters approved a $35 million bond to create the Land for Maine’s Future.
And for decades after that, LMF conserved nearly 604,000 acres of land and some working waterfronts, mostly working lands. Nearly all of these properties continue to pay taxes as well.
But over the last ten years, the fund began to run out. When I took office, there was very little left to protect our cherished lands and waters despite the overwhelming approval of the voters of Maine for this program.
So last year, I worked with the Legislature to replenish the Land for Maine’s Future fund with $40 million in new state money through the biennial state budget on a bipartisan basis. Not borrowing, but appropriating the money on a bipartisan basis.
And this week, we announced the first five conservation projects funded by that budget.
These new LMF projects are all over the state and they protect working lands and wildlife habitat, preserving public access to lakes, rivers, scenic views, and mountain vistas.
And for the first time, they also protect deer habitat because of a bill approved by the Legislature which I signed into law, giving preferential consideration to those projects that conserve deer wintering habitats.
So the five projects are:
- Buck’s Ledge Community Forest, a 634-acre parcel of land in the town of Woodstock. That forest is accessible to a lot of population centers in Maine and is very popular for hiking, rock climbing, hunting, and snowmobiling.
- The East Grand Lake Weston Conservation Easement: largest of all projects, this one covers 4,363 acres and more than 21 miles of shoreland on East Grand Lake and other lakes in the area as well as the headwaters of the St. Croix International Waterway. This project encompasses public access for hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, boating and hiking and all other outdoor activities and it’s a great view from Maine’s Million Dollar View Scenic Byway (Route 1).
- The Kennebago Headwaters. This project is 1,700 acres that will become part of a larger conservation project encompassing nearly the entire Kennebago watershed. Some of the highest quality habitat for eastern brook trout in that area, and the river annually attracts thousands of fishermen like myself. Conservation of this land will also protect habitat for wildlife species including Canada lynx, martens, upland birds, waterfowl, moose and deer.
- The Kennebec Highlands: The project encompasses 813 acres in Vienna and New Sharon and it fills in the large gap in the Kennebec Highlands Public Reserved Land. The highlands are the divide between the Kennebec and Androscoggin River watersheds, and this project includes more than 6,000 acres of conserved land with public access for fishing, hunting, trapping, hiking, mountain biking, running, skiing, snowmobiling, berry picking and horseback riding.
Last, but not least –
- The Caribou Stream Deer Wintering Area: This will conserve 930 acres of priority deer wintering habitat in the towns of Woodland and Washburn in the County, as well as nearly 2 miles of stream habitat for wild brook trout.
Well every one of these projects is an exceptional opportunity to preserve working lands, expand public access for outdoor recreation, protect important wildlife habitat, and ensure public access for future generations.
As someone who does love the outdoors, and as bit of an angler myself, I am proud that the State of Maine is once again preserving our cherished lands and waters in a meaningful way, pursuant to bipartisan legislation.
This is Governor Janet Mills. Thank you for listening.