On Monday, March 7, 2022, the Mills Administration announced two calls for proposals through the Lands for Maine's Future Program (LMF). The requests are for working farmland and working forest proposals and build on earlier solicitations for conservation, recreation, water access, and working waterfront proposals.
The Land for Maine's Future Program is the State of Maine's primary method of conserving land for its natural and recreational value. The program was established in 1987 when Maine citizens approved a bond to fund $35 million for the purchase of lands. Since then, 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.
Prior to the Governor's and Legislature's $40 million infusion through Governor Mills' most recent biennial budget, the Fund was nearly depleted.
"The Land for Maine's Future Program is back in business, and we are once again conserving our working lands and precious natural resources for the benefit of Maine people," said Governor Janet Mills. "I applaud the LMF Board for its aggressive work to protect the cherished lands and waters that form the backbone of our heritage industry - our working farms and forests."
The Working Farmland Access and Protection Program (WFAPP) provides funding to protect Maine's productive and economically significant agricultural lands. On these protected properties, WFAPP seeks to protect properties that support farming operations in areas of the State that support and anchor a viable agricultural economy, that benefit beginning farmers or underserved communities, and that provide multiple public benefits such as protection of wildlife habitat.
The LMF Board also requests applications for projects that protect our working forests. Working forests provide many public benefits, from ensuring a sustainable wood supply to support our forest economy to public access for traditional outdoor recreation pursuits. They provide wildlife habitat and are a critical component of the state's strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by sequestering carbon, as outlined in the State's Climate Action Plan, Maine Won't Wait. Eligible projects could include acquisition of Town forests, drinking water supply protection, properties that protect deer wintering habitat, and working forest easements on commercial timberland.
"The Land for Maine's Future program is a critically important resource for the protection of our state's working farms, forests, and waterfront," said Pat Keliher, Land for Maine's Future Board Chair and Commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources. "These funding opportunities will help safeguard properties so vital to Maine's heritage industries, natural resources, and unspoiled wilderness."
"Through these LMF programs, Maine is poised to protect more of our valuable working farmland and forests from development," said Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner Amanda Beal. "We thank Governor Mills and the Maine Legislature for their bold vision to allocate resources to conserve lands that feed us, help our state to mitigate climate change, and routinely provide numerous other public benefits to the people of Maine."
"The DACF is excited that the WFAPP will provide protection to working farmland properties whose continued ability to actively farm is essential to the long-term future of Maine's agricultural sector," said Bureau of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Resources Director Nancy McBrady.
"Our working forests are critical to our economy and the Maine way of life, and the intertwined concerns of climate change. I applaud the efforts of all who make this program a success," said Patty Cormier, Maine Forest Service Director.
"In the face of climate change, an increased need for housing, and innovations in the building industry, maintaining a sustainable timber supply is critically important to growing Maine's forest economy. Investing in working forest protection guarantees valuable carbon sequestration, tax revenue, and recreational resources in addition to permanent public access," said Manager and Co-Owner of Robbins Lumber and LMF Board member Catherine Robbins Halsted.
Proposals can come from state agencies, land trusts, municipalities, cooperating entities as defined by Title 5 M.R.S.A Section 6201 (2)or other entities identified as an eligible holder of conservation easements under Title 33 M.R.S.A, Section 476(2).
Farmland proposals must be sponsored by the Bureau of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Resources. A copy of the WFAPP workbook, which includes all information necessary to apply for LMF funds, is available on the LMF web page.
Prospective WFAPP applicants can contact Alex Redfield, Farmland Protection Specialist, Bureau of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Resources, at (207) 592-0640 with questions.
Working forest proposals must be sponsored by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry or the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Application materials can be found on the LMF web page.
In January 2022, Governor Mills announced five Land for Maines Future conservation projects of statewide significance that protect working lands and wildlife habitat and that preserve public access to lakes, rivers, scenic views, and mountain vistas. The projects, which are located across the state, were the first to be selected by the Land for Maine's Future Board since Governor Mills and the Legislature reinvigorated the program.