BUCKFIELD – Two Oxford County conservation projects have each received $75,000 in federal funds for habitat protection.

The Western Foothills Land Trust received funds for conservation efforts at South Pond in Buckfield, while the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust received funds for efforts on the Saco River in Fryeburg.

“Maine has done very well with these grants, because Maine has a very strong land trust community,” said Stewart Fefer, project coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “They have been applying for these grants for the past several years, and they have been very successful.”

The funds were awarded through the North American Wetland Conservation Act grant program. They require a one-to-one match.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Buckfield project aims to protect 1,279 acres of habitat, including 383 acres of forested wetlands, 230 acres of wading bird and waterfowl breeding habitat, and the 49-acre undeveloped pond.

Lee Dassler, program coordinator for the Western Foothills Land Trust, said the trust has already purchased the first 44-acre conservation easement of the land.

The easement allows the trust to purchase development rights while allowing property owners to retain ownership of the land.

Dassler said the trust expects to acquire a total of 1,294 acres of protected land in the South Pond project by early 2009. She said the grant will go toward an endowment to pay for taxes on the land.

The Saco River project includes cooperation between the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, the Saco River Corridor Commission and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The project will create 512 acres of protected land, including 456 acres of wetlands.

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