Land and Wildlife for All to Enjoy
“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children.”
—President Theodore Roosevelt
Securing Maines Future Web

The Maine way of life depends on open land and waterways that create opportunities to earn a living and enjoy the outdoors. Land conservation means more access to hunting, fishing, and hiking. And it means economic security for farmers, fishermen, and foresters. We can do more to secure Maine’s land and wildlife for our children and grandchildren, giving them the same opportunities for good jobs and outdoor recreation that Maine people have enjoyed for generations.

Why conserve Maine’s land?

The economic value of Maine’s water, land, and wildlife is not just our legacy, it’s our greatest potential. Maine’s forest products industry is contributing $8.5 billion to Maine’s economy and supporting 33,000 jobs. Outdoor recreation, including hunting, fishing, skiing, hiking, and wildlife-watching, adds $8.2 billion and 76,000 jobs. Commercial seafood landings topped $700 million in 2016, while Maine farmers add $1.4 billion in value to the state’s economy. All the while, innovations in composite materials, environmental technologies, and bio-based products are creating new opportunities for economic growth based on Maine’s abundant natural resources.

Despite its value to all of us, only a small portion of Maine land is publicly conserved and managed. Access to land and waterways is priceless to sportsmen and women, and everyone who enjoys the outdoors. Our forests are healthier when we engage in sustainable harvesting and conservation of sensitive areas. Fish and wildlife benefit when we ensure a full range of habitats and protect unique populations. And Maine's wilderness is a vital ecological, recreational, and historic part of what makes our state a unique and beloved place.

Threats to open land and waterways

Maine’s natural heritage depends on healthy wildlife habitats. Conserving habitat for wildlife to flourish throughout their life cycles provides opportunities for recreation and quiet enjoyment of Maine’s beauty, while generating millions in revenue from our outdoor economy. Land conservation provides opportunities for high-quality management of vernal pools, deer wintering areas, and other significant wildlife habitats, including areas for seabirds, shorebirds, and inland waterfowl to nest, roost, and feed. And as our climate changes, conserving resilient landscapes for wildlife, agriculture, drinking water, and protection from storm surges will take on even greater importance.

Significant conservation opportunities are being ignored. Many landowners in Maine want to conserve their properties for future generations and local communities are often eager to do the same. But in recent years, lawmakers have rejected opportunities to protect and conserve noteworthy properties for community benefit. These missed opportunities are regrettable, because even in times of tighter budgets, investments that protect working farms, forests, and waterfronts support the backbone of Maine’s economy and preserve access to open land and waterways for all of us to enjoy.

The loss of working waterfronts is taking a toll on Maine’s fishing communities. Maine’s working waterfronts fuel local economies up and down the coast. Fishermen, boat builders, freight companies, marinas and many other businesses, large and small, depend on shorefront access. Commercial fishing and marine trades support 30,000 jobs and contribute more than $800 million to the Maine economy every year. Despite Maine’s extensive 5,300-mile coastline, only 20 miles of all-tide working waterfront access remain. This valuable land is under tremendous pressure from developers while property taxes continue to rise. It’s no surprise that longtime landowners are finding it harder and harder to hold on to their property and the waterfront access it provides.

Keeping Maine farmland available and affordable for new farmers is an ongoing challenge. Maine has 1.45 million acres of farmland today – roughly 25% of the farming acreage of a century ago. Only a small portion of today’s farmland is protected through easements, tax law, and transfer tools that assure it can stay in production. In the coming decade, more than 400,000 acres of Maine farmland is expected to change ownership. As development pressures continue to mount, there is no guarantee that this farmland will be available and affordable for a new generation of farmers who will already face challenges in achieving profitability.

Policy Priority:

Land for Maine's Future

Maine is losing open space, farmland, waterfront access, and wildlife habitat to development pressure. Maine’s tradition of public access to private land is diminishing as properties are turned over to new owners and subdivided, often ending hunting, fishing, and recreation opportunities.

The Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) program is a 30-year success story based on collaboration and creativity. The LMF program partners with local sporting groups, towns, businesses, and land trusts to fund land conservation projects that protect working waterfronts, farmland, and forests - ensuring public access and safeguarding the economic opportunities that Maine’s water, land, and wildlife provide for all of us.

By 2022, Maine needs to…

  • secure at least $30 million in new funding for the Land for Maine’s Future program. This key investment in public land and waters will generate $330 million in direct economic activity and support good jobs and recreation opportunities for our families and communities, today and into the future.
  • rebuild the core functions of the Maine Department of Conservation and Bureau of Parks and Lands to prioritize public benefits over industrial extraction of raw materials.
  • restore funding and expand Maine’s Farms for the Future Program, a competitive grant program that provides selected farms with business planning assistance and investment support.

More reasons to safeguard Maine’s land, water and wildlife

Public lands fuel strong economies. Protected public lands are an important economic asset for states. Public lands support recreation and tourism while drawing new businesses and young people who want to live and work near places for hiking, camping, hunting, and boating.

Preserving farmland creates opportunities for young farmers and improves Maine’s ability to grow our own food. A recent study shows that New England could produce as much as two-thirds of our own food by the year 2060, but only if we expand the acreage in agricultural production. By building on our recent growth in farming and young farmers, Maine could contribute millions of acres to this emerging vision of a more independent, self-directed food supply. Agricultural easements and other tools to preserve farmland for sustainable farming can help make land and ecologically-sound production more affordable for new and experienced farmers.

Maine’s timber-based economy can innovate and grow. Ingenuity and hard work are hallmarks of Maine people. As traditional mill jobs have been lost, new ways to use Maine’s forest resources have been developed. Maine universities and community colleges are training students in composite science while new bio-based products, including innovative materials for the industrial, energy, and construction markets, are creating tremendous opportunities for new manufacturing jobs in Maine.