Over $3.7 million awarded for natural resource conservation in Maine

January 8, 2020

CONTACT: David Madore, DEP Communications Director (207) 287-5842 david.madore@maine.gov; Jeremy Cluchey, The Nature Conservancy in Maine (207) 607-4843 jeremy.cluchey@tnc.org; Tim Dugan, New England District Corps of Engineers (978) 318-8264 timothy.j.dugan@usace.army.mil

AUGUSTA, January 8, 2020 - Nineteen projects to restore, enhance or protect wetlands and other important habitats around the state have been selected to receive funding from the Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program (MNRCP), the Department of Environmental Protection announced today. The combined funds total over $3.7 million-the largest total in the program's history.

MNRCP was created to help offset unavoidable impacts to natural resources at one site by funding the restoration or preservation of similar resources at another to maintain ecological benefits. In all, more than 120 projects across Maine have been funded since the program began in 2009.

"MNRCP has become one of Maines most important tools for conservationists and developers to work together to protect fragile wetland habitats. Its a win for Maines natural environment, and its win for Maines economy," said Commissioner Jerry Reid of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Projects awarded funding in this round include brook trout habitat restoration in Downeast Maine, a wildlife road crossing improvement project in Eliot, and conservation of high-value wetlands at sites in Frenchville, Hancock, Kingfield, Orono, Mount Vernon, New Gloucester, and York, among others. In all, $3,758,780 was awarded to restore or enhance almost 25 acres and help conserve over 3,000 acres more.

The program offers an efficient and workable alternative for permit applicants after all efforts have been made to avoid or minimize wetland impacts. In-lieu fees are collected from approved applicants and used to restore, enhance, or preserve aquatic resources and their associated uplands in the same region of the state, resulting in positive ecological outcomes. In-lieu fees are collected by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and transferred to the Natural Resource Conservation Fund. Public agencies and non-profit conservation organizations apply, through a competitive process, to use these funds for restoration and preservation in Maine.

Proposals are evaluated and ranked by a Review Committee, which is convened by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and made up of public and nonprofit entities. The final funding decisions are made by an Approval Committee comprised of state and federal agencies.

"The MNRCP has a long-established successful track record and continues to offer developers greater predictability and streamlining in both state and federal wetland permitting processes. The partnerships established between regulatory and resource agencies and statewide conservation groups in the implementation of this vital program yield significant environmental benefits for the State of Maine," said Jay Clement, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Maine Project Office.

The Nature Conservancy administers the process and is responsible for seeing that the projects are executed. In this administrative role, the Conservancy does not have a vote on which proposals are approved for funding.

"This program helps ensure that mitigation efforts have long-lasting benefits conserving key habitat areas around the state," said Bryan Emerson, mitigation program manager for The Nature Conservancy in Maine. "The program has been successful at providing much-needed funding for high quality projects to applicants from all parts of Maine."

"This collaboration between Maine DEP, The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Army Corps is facilitating a strategic process for compensation projects that are saving and strengthening our states highest value wetland habitats," Reid said.

Recipients of this year's project funding include Orono Land Trust, Frenchman Bay Conservancy, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Three Rivers Land Trust, Bangor Land Trust, The Trust for Public Land, 7 Lakes Alliance, York Land Trust, Western Foothills Land Trust, Falmouth Land Trust, Great Works Regional Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, Maine Department of Transportation, Loon Echo Land Trust, Upper St. John River Organization, the Town of Wells, and Royal River Conservation Trust.

For more information about the Maine Natural Resource Conservation program, visit http://mnrcp.org/