The Maine Woods

A Publication of the Forest Ecology Network

 Volume Five     Number Two                           Late Fall 2001

Growth of Land Trusts Booms Across Maine: 12 new trusts brings total to 88

by Chris Hamilton

Topsham: Responding to the rapid loss of natural lands and open space, communities all across Maine are forming local and regional land trusts. Since 1995, 16 new trusts have been formed from Shapleigh to Calais from North Haven to Greenville. There are now 88 independent non-profit land trusts in Maine boasting a combined membership of 61,000 according to a recent survey conducted by the Maine Land Trust Network, a program of Maine Coast Heritage Trust.

"The development boom of the 1990's has motivated people to take action to save the special areas of their communities," says Chris Hamilton of Maine Coast Heritage Trust. "Public support for land conservation is very strong in Maine. Since 1997, membership in Maine's land trusts has increased by 20%."

"People from all walks of life are working to conserve special areas of their communities. For example, Maine Guides at Grand Lake Stream recently formed the Downeast Lakes Regional Land Trust," says Hamilton. "Farmers in Turner helped form the statewide Maine Farmland Trust and concerned citizens in Shapleigh and surrounding areas formed the Three Rivers Land Trust. Land conservation, where the land is set aside from development, appeals to conservatives and liberals, natives and newcomers. It is about preserving the best of Maine for future generations."

"There has also been an amazing amount of land conserved across Maine from a couple acre preserve in Boothbay to remote seabird nesting islands to the world's largest conservation easement on the Pingree forest land," says Hamilton. "These lands provide important public access to lakes, ponds and the coast, maintains scenic vistas, preserves wildlife habitat and are an important part of Maine's economy."

According to the MCHT survey, land trusts have set aside more than one million acres in Maine since 1997. Trusts own over 251,000 acres (including The Nature Conservancy's 185,000 acre St. John River property) and hold conservation easements on another 863,000 acres (including the 762,800 Pingree Easement). A conservation easement is a flexible legal tool that is used to voluntarily restrict future development of the land.

The Maine Land Trust Network, a program of Maine Coast Heritage Trust, provides access to resources, training and peer learning opportunities for land trusts throughout the state. To enhance the Network and provide in-depth training on land conservation and land trusts, MCHT hosts an annual two-day conference.

People interested in learning how they can get involved or looking for more information about the conferences or land trusts in their area are encouraged to visit the Maine Land Trust Network's website at or contact Maine Coast Heritage Trust at 729-7366.

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