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$1.5 Million for Wetland Restoration and Conservation

AUGUSTA, MAINE – The Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program (MNRCP) awarded over $1.5 million for 11 projects across Maine that will restore, enhance, or protect wetlands and other important natural resources, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (Maine DEP) announced today.

The projects awarded funding include removal of an abandoned road through a wetland in Atkinson Township; salt marsh enhancement projects in Milbridge and Biddeford; and preservation of high-value wetlands at sites ranging from 7.8 acres to over 175 acres in seven towns in five different Maine counties. In total, $1,509,057 was awarded to restore or enhance over 50 acres of wetlands and help conserve approximately 500 acres of wetlands and associated upland buffer.

“MNRCP has regularly provided funds for high quality wetland restoration and conservation projects around the state. The projects in this year’s funding cycle are no different,” said Commissioner Melanie Loyzim of the Maine DEP. “Wetland restoration is crucial to restoring damaged wetlands to a more natural state so they can continue to offer the ecosystem services that the people of Maine value so highly.”

MNRCP is part of the state’s In Lieu Fee Compensation Program, whereby developers who are seeking permits for environmental impacts can pay a fee to the state to compensate for those impacts. The fees are assessed by the Maine DEP and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) during the permitting process and are transferred to a dedicated fund where they are pooled together with fees from other projects. MNRCP then has an annual funding cycle where awards are made for wetland restoration, enhancement, or preservation projects that serve as compensation for the development impacts. Public agencies, municipalities, tribes, and non-profit conservation organizations are all eligible to apply for funding. Preference is given to projects that actively restore or enhance damaged wetlands.

Not only does the program provide an efficient and consistent compensation alternative for developers, MNRCP is also one of the most important funding sources for wetland restoration and conservation projects in the state. Since it began in 2008, the program has awarded over $26 million for more than 160 restoration and conservation projects.

“The Sisk property has been on our radar for over a decade due to its ample natural resources and connectivity to other protected lands,” said Lisa Linehan, Executive Director of the Kittery Land Trust, one of this year’s award recipients. “With the generous award from MNRCP, this 56-acre parcel directly links 500 acres of conserved land in both Kittery and York. In these times of intense development pressure, it is an incredible opportunity to enhance open space and protect crucial habitat in our community. With MNRCP’s support, we will also be able to include a wetland restoration component to this project by removing two malfunctioning culverts allowing streams to return to their natural flow. This restoration will help revegetate soils, improve wildlife and native plant habitat, and provide improved floodwater retention in the wetland.”

“This award from MNRCP will allow us to restore a degraded stream at a road crossing in the Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve in Atkinson Township,” said George Bakajza of Northeast Wilderness Trust, another of this year’s awardees. George has been an active steward in and around Atkinson for decades and will be leading this project in his role as Maine Seasonal Land Steward for the organization. “This funding will enable us to remove a buried culvert, which has caused flooding, water stagnation, soil erosion, and sedimentation along a tributary of the Piscataquis River. The removal of this culvert and fill material will restore the natural flow of a small stream and its associated wetlands, to again provide cold, well oxygenated water to the river.”

MNRCP is widely considered to be a successful program, both in New England and the country, and has become a valuable asset to the conservation community in Maine as well as developers seeking state and federal permits. The success of MNRCP relies on coordination between Maine DEP and the Army Corps, who oversee natural resource permitting in the state, and The Nature Conservancy in Maine, which administers MNRCP on behalf of Maine DEP and the Army Corps.

“MNRCP is one of the oldest and most trusted third-party mitigation providers in the nation,” said Taylor Bell, Mitigation Program Manager for the New England District of the Army Corps. “I could not ask for better counterparts to provide compensatory mitigation projects that will help meet the national goal of ‘no net loss’ of wetland habitat and wetland functions and values. This program strives to increase the extent and quality of restoration, enhancement, creation, and protection of natural resources over those achieved by permittee-responsible mitigation for activities that impact wetlands, significant wildlife habitats, and other aquatic resources, which includes waters of the U.S.”

In 2023, MNRCP will be seeking more wetland restoration and enhancement projects, as these projects better address state and federal mitigation policy, as well as address state conservation planning goals. These projects may include removal of fill material from wetlands or removal of man-made tidal or stream barriers. Projects that protect lands that can accommodate salt marsh migration from sea level rise and that protect important wildlife habitats, such as vernal pools and waterfowl and wading bird habitat, will also be given priority.

“Wetlands are such a critical resource, for wildlife and for people,” said Bryan Emerson, Mitigation Program Manager at The Nature Conservancy in Maine. “We’re always on the lookout for high-quality restoration and conservation opportunities anywhere in the state.”

For more information about MNRCP, visit http://mnrcp.org

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