The Mills administration is seeking proposals for conservation projects aimed at preserving open spaces that have the potential to benefit future generations of Mainers.

Gov. Janet Mills announced Friday that the budget of the Land for Maine’s Future program has been replenished and now contains $40 million for projects that could be used to protect farmlands and open space, waterfront properties, threatened wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation areas with statewide significance. In its last session, the Legislature voted to appropriate that amount in the state’s biennial budget for the LMF program. Mills approved the funding package, which will be distributed over the next four years.

The state is encouraging applications for projects, and they are due by Dec. 30. This will be the first opportunity to apply for LMF funds since 2017, Mills said. She said preserving and protecting lands from development should be one of the state’s “highest callings.”

“As we push full speed ahead on our economic recovery, now is the time to conserve in perpetuity the natural resources that form the backbone of our rural economy,” Mills said in a statement. “To sustain our heritage, our farms, forests and working waterfronts, saving them from development and making sure they are forever available to fishermen, families and farmers of Maine.”

The land conservation program was established in 1987 after Maine citizens approved a bond in the amount of $35 million. Since then, the Land for Maine’s Future program has conserved about 604,000 acres. The program has helped protect land with projects in each of Maine’s 16 counties, such as Mount Kineo, near Moosehead Lake, and the Bold Coast, near Cutler. The conserved list of properties includes 41 farms, 9,755 acres of farmlands, and 26 commercial working waterfront properties. In addition, the program has conserved 1,272 miles of river, lake and pond shorelines, 58 miles of coastline, and 158 miles of former railroad corridors, which have been converted into recreational trails.

Prior to the infusion of the $40 million by the Legislature and Mills, the fund was nearly depleted.


The program popular among Maine voters became a political target of former Gov. Paul LePage. During his administration, LePage blocked spending and allowed $6.5 million in LMF bonds to expire before they could be used. LePage wanted to allow more timber harvesting in preserved lands and complained the program allowed conservation groups to use taxpayer dollars for inflated land purchases.

When Maine lawmakers included the funds for land conservation in the state’s biennial budget earlier this year, it was one of the biggest cash infusions to the Land for Maine’s Future program since it started more than 30 years ago. The investment comes as record numbers of people visit Maine’s outdoors and pressure builds over development and the preservation of sensitive areas. The budget passed with overwhelming support in the Legislature.

“The LMF program has a lengthy history of protecting Maine’s natural resources, and with this new infusion of funding, will continue advancing its important work on behalf of the people of Maine,” said Amanda Beal, commissioner for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. “This call for proposals will bring forth the next generation of land conservation, including supporting our state climate objectives.”

“Maine has made considerable progress in conserving land, but there is much more to do,” added LMF board member Don Kleiner of Union. “Land for Maine’s Future assures that we continue to make progress conserving what we all know and love for future generations.”

The LMF fund is managed by nine members, including six private citizens and three state agency commissioners, including Beal.

Proposals for projects of statewide significance are due on Dec. 30, while all other conservation project applications are due by April 1, 2022. An application to LMF requires sponsorship from a state agency and each application must include an acknowledgement from the affected landowner that the project is under consideration for state funds. Proposals are reviewed by LMF staff and scored by the board before funds are allocated.

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