By Ramona du Houx
May 9, 2021
A broad coalition of organizations are applauding Governor Janet Mills for including funding for the popular and effective Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) program in her proposed bond package announced on May 7,2021 .The package included $40 million over four years to conserve lands and waters for Maine people through the Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) Program.
Historically, there has never been a better time to invest in bonds with interest rates the lowest they have ever been.
LMF has conserved nearly 604,000 acres of land, more than half of which – 333,425 acres – has been working lands. This includes 41 farms and 9,755 acres of farmlands and 26 commercial working waterfront properties, along with 1,272 miles of shorelines of rivers, lakes and ponds, 58 miles of coastline, and 158 miles of former railroad corridors for recreational trails.
However, the fund is nearly depleted. If the Fund is replenished, LMF can continue its robust conservation efforts, leveraging Federal funding enacted last year through The Great American Outdoors Act, which is expected to send tens of millions of dollars to the state for protection and conservation efforts.
“This funding is crucial to achieving the next generation of land conservation in Maine while supporting our state climate objectives,” said Amanda Beal, Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner. “LMF is an effective catalyst for preserving our valued working forests, farmlands, and waterfronts, as well as public lands that provide numerous recreational opportunities.”
Created in 1987, LMF has supported projects in all 16 Maine counties. Despite strong bipartisan support, LMF has not received new funding since 2012, when the last of Governor Baldacci’s bond packages was issued.
While the Baldacci Administration issued bonds nearly yearly for LMF, thereby protecting more land than any other administration, the LePage Administration did the opposite. Any bonds that were passed by the legislature were not signed by former Gov. LePage, holding up progress on conservation to building homes for the elderly. Governor Mills’s LMF bond package is considered more than reasonable. The people of Maine overwhelmingly vote for LMF bond funding, and, in-fact bonds in general.
Mainers representing a wide array of interests submitted testimony in overwhelming support of two LMF bond proposals at an April 26nd public hearing before the Appropriations Committee: LD 983 sponsored by Senator Cathy Breen (D-Cumberland County) and LD 687 sponsored by Representative Patrick Corey (R-Windham). If approved by the Legislature, the LMF bond would appear on the November 2021 ballot.
Maine’s forests need LMF.
“The Forest Society of Maine works with willing landowners to acquire permanent conservation easements on forestlands to ensure that they are not divided and developed. This is the type of action that can keep Maine’s forests intact, but it takes funds to do so. A land bond for Land for Maine’s Future would refund this program and enable opportunities for forest conservation, that keeps land on the tax rolls and land open for public access,” said Karin Tilberg, President and CEO, Forest Society of Maine, former advisor to Governor John Baldacci on the environment.
Fishing and aquaculture benefit from LMF.
“We are thrilled Governor Mills recognizes the significant value Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) brings to the state of Maine. Our working landscapes need protection and LMF is a great tool. State bonds leverage additional capital and encourage landowners to protect these essential assets that are the building blocks to a thriving Maine economy. At CEI, we’ve seen the significant value LMF has brought to Maine’s working waterfronts. Over an eight-year period, 30 properties were preserved for Maine’s fishing and aquaculture industry. It’s an amazing tool that leverages exponential investment,” said Hugh Cowperthwaite, Senior Program Director, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Coastal Enterprises, Inc.
LMF is important to curb climate change.
“Acadia Center supports the Maine Climate Action Plan and its recommendations to increase forest, agricultural, and coastal lands and waters. Funding the Land for Maine’s Future program is critical to achieve the Plan’s priority strategies and absolutely necessary to increase carbon storage opportunities, avoid harmful emissions, and enhance climate resilience,” said Jeff Marks, Maine State Director, Acadia Center
Many aren’t aware that LMF funds help the state’s agricultural community.
“Agriculture is a key component of Maine’s economy and way of life, but farmland – the foundation of Maine’s farm businesses – is a precious and limited resource. The LMF program is an important source of public funding for protecting Maine’s farmlands,” said Ellen Griswold, Policy and Research Director, Maine Farmland Trust