Land trusts work for Maine

Posted:  Tuesday, January 30, 2018 - 10:00am
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Recently, there has been increased scrutiny of Maine’s land trusts. As a local land conservation organization, Boothbay Region Land Trust (BRLT) welcomes the attention and the opportunity to share our work and the impact it is making with policymakers and the public.

To this end, the Maine Land Trust Network conducted a survey in 2017 of the state’s land trust organizations. The data and information collected has been revealing.

In our region, BRLT has provided public access to a diverse range of preserves from woodlands to shorelines, islands to meadows, which permit public use of docks and moorings, year-round outdoor recreation from fishing and hunting, to snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, hiking, and mountain biking. Our programming, which has always been free and open to the public, offers a wide variety of educational and recreational opportunities for all ages and levels of mobility. In 2017 BRLT offered over 100 free educational programs including lectures, nature hikes, forest therapy walks, and special events such as heirloom apple tasting, story trails, and many more. We also offer free educational programming to schools and daycares across the peninsula and collaborate with a number of other organizations to offer environmental-based educational opportunities.

Thanks to Maine’s network of eighty land trusts, other regions of the state are seeing similar benefits. For example, on Maine’s land trust conserved lands, the public enjoys a diverse network of outdoor recreational areas that rival those offered at state and federal parks, and, with few exceptions, use of these lands is free to all. More specifically, residents and visitors alike will find the following amenities on Maine land trust conserved properties:

  • Hikers will find more than 1,250 miles of trails. These range from family-friendly nature paths to more rugged routes ending atop wind-swept summits, and everything in between.
  • Outdoor recreationalists can enjoy more than 275 miles of mountain bike trails, 345 miles of ATV trails, and 570 miles of snowmobile trails.
  • Families are invited to discover more than 200 beaches offering opportunities to swim, picnic, and observe wildlife.
  • Water enthusiasts can launch their canoe or kayak at more than 60 saltwater and 140 freshwater boat launch sites, provided and maintained by land trusts.
  • And, believe it or not, more than 90% of all lands conserved by Maine land trusts are open to hunting. In other words, more than 2.3 million acres – 10% of the state.

These land trust protected properties are especially critical in Maine, a state that continues to lag well behind others when it comes to public lands available for outdoor recreation. In fact, Maine has the lowest percentage of public lands (6.5 percent of the state) of any state east of the Appalachian Mountains. By comparison, more than 17 percent of New Hampshire is publicly owned. And, in Florida, one in every four acres is conservation land owned by the public.

As a bonus, unlike public lands, most land trust conserved lands are directly contributing to our local tax base. In fact, more than 94.5% of all lands conserved by land trusts in Maine remain on the tax rolls. These properties are also indirectly generating tax revenue by supporting local economies through the protection of more than 2.1 million acres of working forests, 36,000 acres of productive farmland, and 60 access sites for marine fishermen. Land trust lands are also popular destinations for visitors, strengthening the tourism sector, the state’s largest industry.

Visit Boothbay Region Land Trust online to learn more about our preserves and upcoming programs at bbrlt.org. For more information on land trusts visit mltn.org. While there, check out “Land Trusts Work for Maine.” The culmination of the 2017 survey, this 12-page report, outlines ways in which land trusts are strengthening Maine’s economy and enhancing our communities.