Nearly $1.5M awarded for natural resource conservation in Maine

December 14, 2018

CONTACT: David Madore, Maine DEP Communications Director, (207) 287-5842 david.madore@maine.gov; Tim Paul, The Nature Conservancy in Maine (207) 607-4809, timothy.paul@tnc.org; Tim Dugan, New England District Corps of Engineers (978) 318-8264, timothy.j.dugan@usace.army.mil

AUGUSTA, December 14, 2018 - Nine 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 program was created to help offset unavoidable impacts to protected natural resources resulting from development projects by funding the restoration or preservation of similar resources in the same geographic region to maintain overall ecological benefits. In all, more than 100 projects across Maine have been funded since 2009.

"MNRCP has become one of Maine's most meaningful tools used in partnership with conservationists and developers to ensure important environmental protections. It's a win for Maine's natural environment, and it's win for Maine's economy," said Acting Commissioner Melanie Loyzim of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Projects awarded funding in this round include wetland restoration in Aroostook County, restoring and enhancing an important salt marsh in southern Maine, and a stream channel restoration project on the Machias River. In all, $1,469,350 was awarded to restore almost 79 acres of wetlands and help protect over 1,600 acres of high value wetlands, wildlife habitat, and upland buffers.

MNRCP provides regulatory flexibility for applicants by allowing them to make a payment into the program in lieu of traditional compensation methods, provided they have made all efforts to avoid and minimize natural resource impacts. In lieu fees are collected by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and then transferred to the Natural Resource Conservation Fund which is managed by The Nature Conservancy. Public agencies and non-profit conservation organizations apply for funding, through an annual competitive process, to use these funds for restoration and preservation of natural resources in Maine.

"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, or preserve aquatic resources and their associated uplands. The MNRCP has used these fees to do extraordinary work to protect and improve Maine's aquatic resources. The Corps is very proud of this program."

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 nonprofit entities. The final funding decisions were made by an approval committee comprised of state and federal agencies.

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 collaboration between Maine DEP, The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Army Corps facilitates a systematic and strategic process for protecting and enhancing our state's highest value wetland habitats," Loyzim said.

"The competitive grant process is set up to fund the best projects possible with the available funds," said Bryan Emerson, mitigation program manager for The Nature Conservancy in Maine. "We are excited this year to have projects from across the entire state and a great mix of restoration and preservation projects."

Recipients of project funding include Friends of Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge, Project SHARE, Damariscotta River Association, Orono Land Trust, Frenchman Bay Conservancy, Blandings Park Wildlife Sanctuary, Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, York Land Trust, and The Trust for Public Land.

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