NORWAY — The Crooked River watershed will benefit from a recent $500,000 federal grant designed to protect aquatic resources. 

The American Forest Foundation and four partners are the recipients of
a the grant to support a $1 million effort to restore, enhance and
protect aquatic resources in two critical watersheds in the Northern
Forest region: the Upper Connecticut River watershed in Vermont and New
Hampshire, and the Crooked River watershed in Maine, according to the
Western Foothills Land Trust.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced $18.4 million in Conservation Innovation Grants to fund 55 projects to develop and refine cutting-edge technologies and approaches to help private landowners conserve and sustain natural resources.

The Crooked River begins at Songo Pond in Albany Township and goes for 42.5 miles through Waterford, Norway, Bridgton, Otisfield, Naples and Casco before emptying into the Songo River. It’s part of the larger Sebago Lake and Presumpscot River Basin and supplies water to more than 200,000 people in the Portland area. The Portland Water District is responsible for delivering high quality water to customers from what has been identified as the most vulnerable public drinking water reservoir watershed in the Northeast.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to bring some innovative thinking to the protection of the Crooked River watershed,” says John Gunn, senior program leader at the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences. “We will work with the Portland Water District and the Western Foothills Land Trust to create cost-efficient and effective ways to motivate private landowners to protect water quality,” he said.

The foundation will partner with the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences
in Brunswick, Hubbard Brook Research Foundation in Hanover, N.H.,
Western Foothills Land Trust in Norway, and the White River Partnership
in South Royalton, Vt., to implement the project during the next three
years.

Todd Gartner, conservation incentives manager and project
lead for the foundation, noted, “The watershed values of forests have historically
been undervalued with limited appreciation, monetarily or otherwise,
especially from downstream users. There is, however, a growing
awareness of the need to protect working forests as the costs of
degraded ecosystems become more apparent. Sustainably managed forests
play a critical role in protecting ecosystem services such as water
quality, carbon sequestration, and biodiversity protection.”

Project
leaders covering both pilot sites will engage communities with
education, outreach and marketing activities to demonstrate a new
market-based framework in which they will “broker” the sale of
ecosystem services by private landowners to buyers such as
municipalities, government agencies, land trusts, nonprofit
organizations and corporations. They will analyze various financing
approaches related to watershed management.

The foundation will coordinate parallel pilot projects while Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences and Hubbard Brook Research Foundation will provide the technical expertise in the Crooked River watershed and Upper Connecticut River watershed, respectively. The Western Foothills Land Trust will serve as the liaison to landowners in Maine, while the White River Partnership will work with landowners in the Connecticut River watershed. Additional funding is being sought to match the Conservation Innovation Grant.


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