Maine’s water, land, and wildlife are the heartbeat of Maine people and Maine’s economy

Protecting Maine’s natural legacy is an investment in our families and in our communities. It’s about preserving our way of life and securing an economic future for our children.

vision-icon.png A Vision for Maine's Natural Legacy

Maine’s extraordinary environment is both a link to the past and a pathway to the future. By wisely managing our water, our land, our plants and trees, and our fish and wildlife, we can protect Maine’s environment and the economic opportunities it provides. We can ensure our water is fishable, drinkable, swimmable, and able to support families and businesses across the state. We can protect our diverse fish and wildlife species, including the conservation and recovery of endangered, threatened, and unique populations, by making sure they have access to the full range of habitats they need to complete their natural life cycles. And we can preserve Maine’s forests with sustainable harvesting and conservation of sensitive areas. By restoring and protecting our special areas and species, Maine’s natural legacy can continue to be a source of enjoyment and prosperity for all residents and visitors.

today-icon.png Today in Maine

It is often said that the diversity and beauty of Maine’s environment are unmatched by any other state in the nation. It’s true that Maine is home to many natural jewels, including 2,500 lakes, 32,000 miles of rivers and streams, and a richness of plants, fish, and animals that includes the prized Eastern Brook Trout as well as the largest population of bald eagles in the east. Forests cover 90% of the state, making Maine the most heavily forested state in the country while its 3,500 miles of coastline border the vibrant marine ecosystem that is the Gulf of Maine.

Historically and today, Maine’s natural resources are linked inseparably to the lifestyle and livelihood of Maine people. At its core, Maine’s brand is its natural environment, which draws visitors from all over the world. The impact of Maine’s environment on its economy is significant. Today’s forest-based manufacturing, tourism, and recreation contribute $6.5 billion annually to Maine’s economy, wildlife-related recreation contributes $1.5 billion, and Maine’s fishing industry contributes $1 billion.

Despite the sheer scope and economic importance of Maine land, only 8% is publicly owned and managed. By working with private landowners, land trusts, and others, Maine has protected almost 500,000 acres through the Land for Maine’s Future Program. Protected lands have included working farms and forests, ocean and freshwater shorefront, wildlife habitat, and important recreational and scenic landscapes. But today the Land for Maine’s Future Program has expended virtually all of its available funds, making it unable to respond to emerging opportunities.

Maine’s water quality is generally considered very good, though key rivers and watersheds remain vulnerable to ongoing industrial discharge, as well as municipal and agricultural waste. Meanwhile, rising sea-levels, flooding, erosion, and changes in ocean acidity as a result of climate change are a looming threat to aquatic ecosystems. And while Maine is home to diverse fish and wildlife populations, they are threatened in significant ways, including the illegal introduction of exotic fish species and the fragmentation of vital habitats as a result of poorly planned development and road construction. These circumstances could result in serious repercussions for Maine’s recreation economy.

needed-icon.png What's Needed

Because Maine’s natural resources are at the core of who we are and what we value as a state, Maine lawmakers have taken many important steps to protect and preserve them. But as our economy, our climate, and our energy needs change, it will be essential that we work together and plan wisely to ensure Maine’s natural legacy remains intact. This will benefit all Maine people and support Maine’s economic infrastructure for the generations of today and tomorrow.

In the next five years we need to address the threats of climate change to our water, land, and wildlife and their implications for our safety and our economy. This means planning for how we will adapt to rising sea levels, changing patterns of rain and snow, and extreme weather events. We need to bring all municipalities and industries into compliance with water quality standards. And we need to take a comprehensive approach to conserving our coastal and ocean resources.

We need to significantly increase our publicly owned land, our forest acreage that is harvested sustainably, and our acreage in permanently protected wildlands and ecological reserves. We need to locate new development appropriately and minimize the fragmentation of habitat caused by roads and culverts, so wildlife can move easily through areas they need for eating and breeding. We need to support and in some cases reestablish strong populations of species that have declined in number, such as shad, alewives, deer, and some waterfowl species that are ecologically and economically important. And we need to encourage federal, state, and private collaboration to restore and conserve forest landscapes that support both people and wildlife.

For our efforts to be successful, we need to fund state wildlife programs adequately, including those designed to raise public awareness of the importance of Maine’s environment, as well as those that enforce environmental laws so all Maine people can benefit from our natural legacy.

hiking-action-icon.png Take Action

There are specific actions that Maine lawmakers must take in the next five years to protect and preserve Maine’s natural legacy and the economic and recreation opportunities it provides.

Land

  • Provide at least $20 million per year in funding for the Land for Maine’s Future program and other state land conservation initiatives designed to conserve Maine’s wilderness, working farmlands, working waterfronts, forestlands, and coastal resources
  • Increase federal funding for Maine land conservation through opportunities such as the Forest Legacy Program and the Land & Water Conservation Fund
  • Implement initiatives that conserve the Maine woods at a scale large enough to protect the integrity of the forest ecosystem
  • Renew and expand Maine’s system of public ecological reserves
  • Fund and promote the Tree Growth, Farm, and Open Space taxation programs

Lakes, Rivers, and Oceans

  • Strictly enforce regulations on large industrial manufacturers; combined sewer overflows from municipalities; polluted run-off, including nitrogen and phosphorous pollution
  • Fund updates to wastewater treatment plants
  • Support water monitoring programs across the state that track pollution found in oceans, bays, lakes, rivers, and streams
  • Identify and conserve key headwater streams and riparian corridors
  • Ensure that the Department of Environmental Protection has at least two full-time and staffed positions devoted to marine science issues

Fish and Wildlife

  • Fully integrate the “Beginning with Habitat” program into all state agencies that have responsibility for natural resource stewardship
  • Address gaps in state statute that prevent appropriate location of development and transportation corridors
  • Enhance the state’s “Wildlife Action Plan” by integrating plans for adapting to climate change
  • Improve eelgrass monitoring in order to develop healthier eelgrass beds
  • Restore strong populations of Maine’s native sea-run fish species across their range
  • Require the replacement of under-sized and poorly functioning culverts at road crossings
  • Prioritize and remove antiquated and unsafe dams from rivers and streams
  • Significantly increase funding for state fisheries and wildlife programs