News & Notes: Conservation Issues


Surfbird Spotted in Maine!

Posted on: Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

If someone asked what the next new bird species to Maine would be, I wouldn’t have guessed Surfbird. Probably not even with 100 guesses. But it happened. On March 20, a group from the Tin Mountain Bird Society spotted an unusual bird amongst some Ruddy Turnstones and Purple Sandpipers. That afternoon one of the group members, Sandra Mitchell, sent me a few photos and a great write up of the bird which sure enough was the first Surfbird to ever have been seen in Maine.

This is the first Surfbird ever spotted in Maine.

And not just Maine, the entire Atlantic Coast! There are a few records of Surfbird spottings in Texas and Florida, but those were within the Gulf of Mexico. Below is a map from eBird.org that shows the normal Eastern-Pacific range of this species (you can also see the tiny pink dot in Maine showing this sighting).

SURF Map

The bird has been seen along the rocky coastline of our East Point Sanctuary in Biddeford. This sanctuary has hosted a number of rare birds over the years, including a Chestnut-collared Longspur in June 2012 (only the second record for Maine), and the first ever sighting of Variegated Flycatcher in the entire US!

The Surfbird was seen all day on Sunday, March 22. Unfortunately, efforts to find the bird on the 23rd have been unsuccessful as of 3:30pm. If the bird is relocated, updates are likely to be posted here:

-Doug

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

 

Submit your question for Doug:

Media Release: Maine Audubon Launches New Resources to Improve Road-Stream Crossings

Posted on: Monday, March 23rd, 2015

NEWS RELEASE 

For Immediate Release

March 23, 2015

Contact: Michelle Smith, Communications & Marketing Manager
msmith@maineaudubon.org
(207) 781-2330 x209
Mobile: (207) 838-0511

 Maine Audubon Launches New Resources to Improve Road-Stream Crossings
New training resources will be crucial as State releases bond money for culvert replacement

Old CulvertFALMOUTH – Maine Audubon and partners launched a new educational website (streamsmartmaine.org) and video training series today for municipal employees, contractors, land trusts and other groups who are working to improve road-stream crossings throughout the state. Recent surveys have found that about 40% of Maine’s stream crossings are severe barriers for fish and wildlife movement and about 90% are barriers at least part of the year for some species.

“Many of Maine’s stream culverts were put in place over 40-50 years ago,” said Barbara Charry, Maine Audubon wildlife biologist and manager of the Stream Smart training program. “These aging culverts put roads, public safety and wildlife at risk. Replacing old culverts with Stream Smart road crossings will not only reconnect fish and wildlife habitat, it will also help towns prepare for the large and frequent storm events that have been washing out roads around the state and the northeast.”

Ward Bredeau, road commissioner for the town of Phillips, Maine, noted, “As a fisherman, I know how important it is for fish to be able to move up and down stream. With the help of funding, small municipalities like ours have been able to install Stream Smart culverts. The culvert we just installed will last 100 years and improve sensitive fish habitat on the Sandy River where my son and I fish.”

Maine Audubon has offered Stream Smart trainings since 2012. The new website outlines the steps needed to implement a Stream Smart road crossing and provides guidance documents, resources and contact information for each step. The site is intended for anyone working on road-stream crossings and for professionals that work with communities, road owners and managers. The video series offers an overview of Stream Smart, field techniques for assessing a stream and five culvert and bridge construction techniques that serve as examples of Stream Smart solutions.

The approval of the water bond this past November will provide $5.4 million to towns to upgrade stream crossings. There is also a proposed $10 million bond sponsored by Representative Jeff McCabe and co-sponsored by Representative Ken Fredette (House Minority Leader) and Senator Paul Davis (the State Legislature will consider later this session), that will further fund improved road-stream crossings.

“Stream Smart road crossings also create jobs and improve Maine’s economy,” noted Matt Marks, CEO of Associated General Contractors of Maine. “Functioning stream culverts and bridges add economic value to a community, as they greatly reduce the chances of washed out roads and damage from storms, saving towns thousands of dollars in repair costs down the road.”

“To date, we have trained over 700 professionals on Stream Smart techniques,” noted Charry. “The new website and video series will supplement this training – it is important that Stream Smart training and techniques are available to towns, contractors and land owners as the state starts to release funding for culvert upgrades.”

The new Stream Smart website and video series has been made possible by a collaboration of the following organizations:

  • Maine Audubon
  • Maine Coast Heritage Trust
  • Associated General Contractors of Maine
  • Maine Department of Transportation
  • US Department of Agriculture: Natural Resource Conservation Service
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • US Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Project SHARE
  • Sustainable Forestry Initiative
  • Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
  • Maine Forest Service
  • Maine Coastal Program
  • Maine Department of Environmental Protection
  • US Army Corps of Engineers
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Maine Rivers

For more information, please contact Barbara Charry at bcharry@maineaudubon.org or (207) 781-2330 x225.

 

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About Maine Audubon
Maine Audubon’s science-based approach to conservation, education and advocacy advances wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation in Maine. Our citizen science programs connect Maine people to engaging volunteer opportunities that make meaningful contributions to conservation research. The largest Maine-based wildlife conservation organization, Maine Audubon has eight centers and wildlife sanctuaries and serves over 50,000 people annually, with 15,000 members and 2,000 volunteers.

Conserving Maine’s wildlife.

Please visit www.maineaudubon.org for more information.
Facebook: & Twitter ID: Maine Audubon

 

 

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About Maine Audubon
Maine Audubon’s science-based approach to conservation, education and advocacy advances wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation in Maine. Our citizen science programs connect Maine people to engaging volunteer opportunities that make meaningful contributions to conservation research. The largest Maine-based wildlife conservation organization, Maine Audubon has eight centers and wildlife sanctuaries and serves over 50,000 people annually, with 15,000 members and 2,000 volunteers.

Conserving Maine’s wildlife.

Please visit www.maineaudubon.org for more information.
Facebook: & Twitter ID: Maine Audubon

Maine Audubon Releases Statement on Governor LePage’s Refusal to Release Land for Maine’s Future Bonds

Posted on: Thursday, March 19th, 2015

PRESS STATEMENT

For Immediate Release

March 19, 2015

Contact: Michelle Smith, Communications & Marketing Manager
msmith@maineaudubon.org
(207) 781-2330 x209
Mobile: (207) 838-0511

 

Maine Audubon Releases Statement on Governor LePage’s Refusal to Release
 Land for Maine’s Future Bonds 

me-x-coldstream-sm

The Cold Stream Forest Project is one example of a Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) program that is now jeopardized because of Governor LePage’s decision to withhold LMF bonds.

Falmouth – Maine Audubon is deeply concerned that Governor LePage has refused to release voter-approved bonds for Land for Maine’s Future (LMF), a program the organization has strongly supported since its inception in 1987. The goal of the LMF program is to secure lands for recreational public access; conserve our most important wildlife habitats; preserve Maine’s fishing, farming and forestry traditions; and protect the natural environment that is vital to our sense of place and economic future.

This is the first time that LMF has been made into a political issue; LMF bonds have consistently received strong bipartisan and public support. Republican Senator Roger Katz was the sponsor of the last successful LMF bond bill and he has submitted another bond bill this session.  Democrat Representative Jeff McCabe has also been a strong champion of the program. Most importantly, the LMF program enjoys strong public support. 60% of Maine voters in 2010 and 2012 voted to invest these conservation funds – this is not a partisan or political issue.

Projects that LMF committed funding to as recently as this past summer are now at risk of not being completed. According to the LMF website, “At its July 15, 2014 meeting the Land for Maine’s Future Board allocated $9.1M of the Land for Maine’s Future bonds approved by voters. Projects include: working forests & farmland, salmon habitat, deer wintering areas, rugged mountains, coastal islands, urban trail connections, working commercial waterfronts, sand beaches, rock climbing areas, wildlife habitat, and many other conservation and recreation assets.”  These 30 projects are now at risk because the Governor is not following through on the administration’s commitment to provide its share of the funding for the project.

Many LMF projects protect valuable wildlife habitat. The Cold Stream Forest Project is one such LMF project currently on hold because of the Governor’s refusal to release the bond money. According to the Trust for Public Land’s website, this project  “consists of 8,000 acres known as Cold Stream Forest—a refuge for the wild native brook trout, threatened Canada lynx, and dwindling northern Maine deer herd that have attracted generations of hunters, naturalists, and fly fishermen. The trout pond populations on this property alone are larger than those found in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont combined.”  Wildlife species that depend on this protected habitat are now at risk because of the Governor’s refusal to release the bond money.

Another project that was scheduled to close by June with LMF funding in hand is being pursued jointly by a private landowner, the Cumberland and Chebeague Land Trust, the Royal River Conservation Trust, the Trust for Public Land, the Towns of Cumberland and North Yarmouth and hundreds of individuals. This project  will protect nearly 300 acres, including one of the best Inland Wading Bird and Waterfowl habitats in southern Maine and surrounding forestland that harbors a rare oak hickory forest. Together, these areas provide habitat for ducks, geese, great blue heron, beaver, muskrat, weasels, fox, porcupine and a myriad of songbirds.

After so many people have worked so hard to conserve these resources on behalf of the public, it would be a travesty if these projects fail simply because the Governor refuses to release voter-approved bonds. Maine Audubon will continue to work with legislators and partner organizations to ensure that these vital LMF bonds are released.

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About Maine Audubon
Maine Audubon’s science-based approach to conservation, education and advocacy advances wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation in Maine. Our citizen science programs connect Maine people to engaging volunteer opportunities that make meaningful contributions to conservation research. The largest Maine-based wildlife conservation organization, Maine Audubon has eight centers and wildlife sanctuaries and serves over 50,000 people annually, with 15,000 members and 2,000 volunteers.

Conserving Maine’s wildlife.

Please visit www.maineaudubon.org for more information.
Facebook: & Twitter ID: Maine Audubon

MEDIA ADVISORY: Senator Angus King to Unveil New Solar Panels at Maine Audubon on March 20

Posted on: Monday, March 16th, 2015

Solar PanelsMEDIA ADVISORY 

For Immediate Release

March 16, 2015

Contact: Michelle Smith, Communications & Marketing Manager
msmith@maineaudubon.org
(207) 781-2330 x209
Mobile: (207) 838-0511

Senator Angus King to Unveil New Solar Panels at Maine Audubon

WHAT: Senator Angus King will help Maine Audubon formally unveil its new solar panel installation on the first day of spring (March 20) at its headquarters, Gilsland Farm Audubon Center in Falmouth. The installation is a result of a unique partnership between Maine Audubon, Revision Energy and Moody’s Collision Centers.

Revision Energy installed the 42 kW solar system in early January. Moody’s Collision Centers paid for the equipment and installation of the project. The renewable energy project allows Moody’s to qualify for federal income tax incentives (as a nonprofit, Maine Audubon does not qualify for these credits). As part of the “power purchase agreement” between the two organizations, Maine Audubon will buy electricity from Moody’s for the next six years. At the end of the six year period, Maine Audubon has the option to buy the solar installation. Moody’s will be able to recoup its costs through the electricity payments, federal tax credits and repayment cost of the system.

“Climate change poses a major threat to the health and long-term sustainability of our ecosystems and wildlife, and no group understands that harsh reality better than Maine Audubon,” said Senator King. “With this collaborative renewable energy project, Maine Audubon, Moody Collision Centers, and ReVision are stepping up to lead in the important fight to preserve our environment for generations to come.”

The solar installation will produce an average of 74,000 kWh of electricity each year, providing close to 80% of the organization’s electricity. The project is the largest array of solar panels installed by a conservation organization in the state.

WHO: Senator Angus King (I-ME)
Phil Coupe, Owner of Revision Energy
Shawn Moody, Owner of Moody’ Collison Centers
Charles Gauvin, Executive Director of Maine Audubon

WHEN: Friday, March 20, 10:00 am

WHERE: Gilsland Farm Audubon Center, 20 Gilsland Farm Road, Falmouth

WHY: Climate change is the number one threat to wildlife and habitat in Maine. As the state’s largest wildlife conservation organization, Maine Audubon is taking action to reduce carbon emissions. The unique partnership with Revision Energy and Moody’s Collision Centers also demonstrates the innovative approaches nonprofits can take to incorporate renewable energy into their operations.

HOW: The press conference will take place in the Environmental Center at Gilsland Farm. Following the conference, there will be an opportunity to take photos of Senator King and speakers in front of the solar panels (weather dependent).

Light refreshments will be served.

ADDITIONAL DETAILS:

The solar installation consists of six solar trackers (for a total of 144 panels) and a rooftop array (composed of 24 panels) on the Environmental Center.  The solar installation is connected to the electricity grid and will feed back energy when more electricity is produced than the facility is able to use. Maine Audubon will receive credit for excess generation.

The six solar trackers (manufactured by AllSun of Vermont) use GPS technology to move throughout the course of the day and year to follow the sun, which provides up to 40% more electricity than a fixed array system. The first six years of operation are expected to offset 222 tons of carbon emissions, which is equivalent to 238,453 pounds of coal burned.

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About Maine Audubon
Maine Audubon’s science-based approach to conservation, education and advocacy advances wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation in Maine. Our citizen science programs connect Maine people to engaging volunteer opportunities that make meaningful contributions to conservation research. The largest Maine-based wildlife conservation organization, Maine Audubon has eight centers and wildlife sanctuaries and serves over 50,000 people annually, with 15,000 members and 2,000 volunteers.

Conserving Maine’s wildlife.

Please visit www.maineaudubon.org for more information.
Facebook: & Twitter ID: Maine Audubon

 

 

The Mysteries of Crow Roosts

Posted on: Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

Have you noticed swarms of crows passing over your house, or maybe overhead while driving home in the evening? Throughout the winter, you are likely seeing American Crows as they head off to spend the evening in a communal roost.

crow roost

A crow roost at Payson Park in Portland, Maine

Crows are very intelligent and social. While crows spend most of the day in their own territories within family groups, some don’t stick around in the evening. While one bird may travel long distances to join a communal roost in one area, another may head to a different roost, and the rest in a family group could just stay in their territory. There is still much mystery to the reasoning around this, but it is quite the spectacle to see.

There are a few well known and easily observable roosts in Maine:

- Portland – Back Cove & Payson Park

- Waterville – near I- 95 exit 130

- Brewer – near City Hall

I recently made a short video about this, available on our YouTube channel.

-Doug

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

 

Submit your question for Doug:

Maine Audubon 2020

Posted on: Thursday, March 5th, 2015
Rainbow over a windmill - John Vogt

A rainbow at Gilsland Farm last spring.

Spring is beginning to peek out from behind the snowbanks at Gilsland Farm. Not only are the days becoming longer, but during a recent mini-thaw, I heard birds singing in the bushes. Our gardens are still buried in thick snow, but that will soon begin to recede, and the ancient cycle of rebirth will begin. As I think of what will happen—soon, I hope—to the white blanket covering our gardens, I am reminded of the line Herman Melville used to close Moby-Dick: “then all collapsed and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled 5,000 years ago.”

With the coming of spring this year, Maine Audubon will be embarking on a new course. Over the past two months (despite the disruption of weather-related office closures!), Maine Audubon’s board and staff have been hard at work on a new strategic plan, which we’re calling “Maine Audubon 2020.”  It’s a bold new blueprint for our venerable organization, one that aims to place us on a path for growth and prosperity, and one that aims to engage a broadly diverse set of interests in wildlife conservation.

As I write this, the blueprint that will be Maine Audubon 2020 is far from finished. We think we have identified some compelling core programs that will motivate people—both within and outside Maine—to engage with us in conserving Maine’s wildlife. But we are also looking for help from people who care about wildlife and habitat.

We are conducting an email survey to gain more information about how we can motivate people to embrace our mission. If you receive the survey, I hope you’ll respond. Even if you do not, I hope you’ll take the time to send me an an email to share your concerns about Maine’s wildlife and how Maine Audubon can do a better job of engaging you in the conservation. Perhaps you’d like to know more about helping wildlife in your own backyard or perhaps you’d like information about wildlife-related bills that are in the legislature this year. Whatever it is, I’d appreciate knowing what moves you – or would move you – to act in support of Maine Audubon’s mission.

Thanks for your help.  Maine is truly one of America’s last, best places, and Maine Audubon is proud to be the leader in conserving its natural assets.

- Charles

Charles Gauvin, Executive Director

Charles Gauvin, Executive Director

Charles Gauvin started at Maine Audubon in 2014. Gauvin brings more than 25 years of experience in conservation leadership, much of it as the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited, the nation’s leading river and fish conservation organization.Gauvin most recently served as Chief Development Officer at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC. He collaborated with Carnegie scholars worldwide to develop program strategies and support in the United States, Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Asia and South Asia.

Welcome (but not so charismatic) Signs of Spring

Posted on: Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

It’s hard to be optimistic about the arrival of spring in just 17 days when there is another 3-5 inches of snow in the forecast for this evening. However, we have seen some ‘warmer’ days over the past week that presented some welcome (though not-so-charismatic) signs of spring:

Snow Fleas

Measuring 1/16th of an inch, you may overlook Snow Fleas (Hypogastrura nivicola) as dirt on the snow but these tiny springtails (subclass: Collembola) are actually amazing little insects. On warm winter days they crawl to the surface looking for food and can be especially numerous near the base of trees. They are active in freezing temperatures thanks to the presence of an anti-freeze-like protein (I should point out that similar synthesized proteins might be the answer to the perfect ice cream).

snowflea

Snowflea (Hypogastrura nivicola)

Featherduster Agonopterix

Although we’ve seen Pantry Moths (Plodia interpunctella) inside all winter, we spotted our first (outdoors) free-flying moth of the year on February 25 when a Featherduster Agonopterix (Agonopteris pulvipennella) was seen on our Environmental Center’s patio.

agonopterix

Featherduster Agonopterix (Agonopteris pulvipennella)

Woodchucks

Another fun sighting at Gilsland Farm this week was the first report of Chris Maher! Entering her 17th year of studying woodchucks (Marmota monax), she brought out her University of Southern Maine class to look for signs of emergence from the early male woodchuck (but they came up empty on March 2). I did hear that the first Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus) of the spring was spotted, though!

Woodchuck pup nibbling (Eric H)LR

A nibbling woodchuck at Gilsland Farm

Robins

Just kidding, American Robins should NOT be considered a sign of spring in Maine. If you want to know why, please see my post from last week.

As you may have noticed throughout this post, there were links to iNaturalist.org. This is a great citizen science database we are using to catalog the biodiversity at Gilsland Farm. Please consider submitting your observations to the project or you can enjoy what others are seeing. And make sure to submit your bird sightings to eBird!

-Doug

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

 

Submit your question for Doug:

It’s Winter in Maine! Why do I see Robins and Bluebirds?

Posted on: Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

My phone has been off the hook lately and most calls go like this: “There are robins (or bluebirds) in my yard! Did they forget to migrate? How will they survive? What can I do to save them?!?”

Quick Answer: Don’t worry, they are fine. American Robins are not a sign of spring in Maine and have no trouble spending the winter here. Eastern Bluebirds have been expanding their range and have become increasingly common in Maine during the winter, especially southern Maine.

Eastern Bluebird (Photo: Doug Hitchcox)

Eastern Bluebird (Photo: Doug Hitchcox)

Long Answer: It is easy to answer questions like this based on my own experiences and observations, but being able to back it up with real data is always fun:

American Robins

First, I always like to point out the latin name Turdus migratorius. Obviously migratorius makes you think of migratory, but it also means wandering, which is basically what robins do throughout Maine winters. They wander around, usually in large flocks, looking for food sources. Any fruit-bearing trees and especially staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) are good places to find them.

Pulling observations from eBird.org, we can quickly create a graph showing the frequency of American Robins in Maine throughout the year (see below). The frequency is the percentage of all checklists submitted that include our species. You can see that this shows American Robins can be seen in Maine year-round, but their frequency does dip below 10% during December-January.

AMRO_chart

The birds we see in the winter are not necessarily the ones we see during the summer; they are probably completely different. I commonly hear people report “Canadian” robins, stating that they look larger. I think in the vast majority of cases, these birds just appear larger because they are fluffed up and trying to stay warm. That said, there is a population of American Robins nesting in Labrador and Newfoundland that are slightly larger (you would never notice this unless they were side-by-side) and adult males show black ending down the back. I would guess that the percentage of these nigrideus American Robins we see in Maine is very low; definitely less than 1% of all the robins I’ve seen fit this description.

Eastern Bluebirds

The history of bluebirds in winter is not a very long one but it is startling to see the change. Inserted below is the results from Christmas Bird Counts in Maine since 1993, showing the total number of Eastern Bluebirds reported on each year’s counts. The increase is dramatic, especially in the last 10 years.

EABL_chart

I don’t know if there is a perfect explanation for this, but I think it is a result of many factors. F

First, range expansion due to climate change. This would be pretty comparable to other ‘southern’ birds that are expanding into Maine, like the Red-bellied Woodpecker I wrote about in January.

There may also be an increase in habitat. This is a tough one, because it may not be a good thing if I have it right. Bluebirds do very well in suburban areas, and suburban sprawl is a never-ending problem that continuously threatens our biodiversity.

On the plus side, there seems to be an increase in landowners developing bluebird trails which increases nesting locations. One factor I think plays a big factor in their ability to stay in the winter is increased food availability.

With suburban areas come ornamental plantings (again, not a good thing as they are usually non-native) that hold fruit late into the winter. Bluebirds convert their diets from insectivores (ground arthropods) in the nesting season to frugivores (small fleshy fruit) in the winter so there is definitely an increase in the amount of food that is available.

What ever the cause, it is nice to see a little more color in the winter.

-Doug

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

 

Submit your question for Doug:

Why Taxing Nonprofits is a Bad Idea

Posted on: Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

The Background

Gilsland Farm Audubon Center attracts thousands of people each year interested in learning about Maine wildlife and habitat.

Gilsland Farm Audubon Center attracts thousands of people each year interested in learning about Maine wildlife and habitat.

Like many other nonprofits, Maine Audubon does not pay property taxes to municipalities for the conservation lands it owns. Governor LePage wants to change that. His proposal to allow municipalities to impose property taxes on real estate owned by nonprofits is bad for conservation, education, health care and practically every other service that the nonprofit sector provides to Maine people. The proposal completely ignores the widespread economic and social benefits that nonprofits bring to Maine people and their communities.

Conserved lands owned by nonprofits provide public benefits that far outweigh the costs of municipal services to them. Consider what Gilsland Farm, Maine Audubon’s headquarters and flagship sanctuary, adds to the greater Portland area. It is an oasis for wildlife and people. Tens of thousands of visitors come here each year, including legions of children who are acquiring a critical attribute of Maine citizenship: an appreciation for wildlife. Through formal programming and in countless, informal ways, Gilsland Farm delivers the public service of increasing environmental literacy for people of all ages.

Unlike some cities, whose land base is disproportionately in nonprofit ownership, most Maine municipalities have lived comfortably with the nonprofits within their boundaries. Municipal officials have not been clamoring for the authority to impose property taxes on nonprofits. The subject has recently assumed front-burner importance only because Governor LePage’s budget (the latest installment in an ongoing effort to cut state government) now includes a novel scheme for financial burden-shifting. It’s a game of fiscal musical chairs, intended to leave the nonprofit sector seat-less and paying the tab for the loss of the municipal revenue sharing.

What you can do

If you value the services that Maine Audubon and other nonprofit landowners provide, I urge you to speak up in opposition to the Governor’s proposal.  Please contact your local legislators and let them know that taxing nonprofits is a bad idea for Maine.

You can also attend the hearing this Thursday, February 19 at 1 pm at the State House in August. Get more details here.

On behalf of Maine’s wildlife and the people in the nonprofit world who are working hard to protect it, I thank you for speaking up!        

- Charles

Charles Gauvin, Executive Director

Charles Gauvin, Executive Director

Charles Gauvin started at Maine Audubon in 2014. Gauvin brings more than 25 years of experience in conservation leadership, much of it as the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited, the nation’s leading river and fish conservation organization.Gauvin most recently served as Chief Development Officer at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC. He collaborated with Carnegie scholars worldwide to develop program strategies and support in the United States, Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Asia and South Asia.

Action Alert! Speak Out Against the Governor’s Proposal to Tax Nonprofits

Posted on: Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Maine Audubon Action Alert

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlease speak out against the Governor’s proposal to tax nonprofit organizations.

The Appropriations and Financials Affairs Committee, together with the Taxation Committee, is holding a public hearing on the proposal require nonprofits to pay property tax.

When:
Thursday, February 19, 1:00 pm

Where:
Room 228 of the State House, Augusta

Why we need you to take action:

The Governor has proposed requiring tax districts impose a property tax on nonprofits who hold $500,000 or more in property tax assessment in a tax district.The assessed value over $500,000 would be taxed at half the local rate. There is another bill to reduce the trigger amount to $250,000.

Please attend the hearing on February 19 at 1:00 pm and testify against the proposal or contact your local legislators to share your concerns.

Talking Points to Share with your Legislator:

Nonprofits Enhance Our Communities

  • Places to hunt, hike, fish, snowmobile, play
  • Outdoor classrooms for the next generation
  • Preserving clean lakes, rivers, drinking water and healthy ecosystems
  • Protecting our heritage and historic places
  • Supporting health and wellness programs: exercise and healthy foods

Nonprofits Strengthen Our Economy

  • Access for commercial fishing
  • Conservation of working forests
  • Supports local farmers and healthy foods
  • Special places that attract tourists (raising more tax dollars from tourists is a key component of the Governor’s proposed shift from income to sales taxes).

Taxing Non-profits Will Result in Fewer Services From Fewer Conserved Lands

  • Providing public benefits like conserved land and community services costs money
  • Many land trusts already stretch existing dollars to maximize impact

The Proposal Is Not Right for Conservation Organization or for any Nonprofit

  • Land trusts and other conservation nonprofits require minimal government services
  • Services provided by land trusts and other nonprofits reduce burden on the government
  • As governments downsize, the need for nonprofits increases

Please attend the hearing on Thursday, February 19 at 1:00 pm and testify in opposition to the proposal or contact your local legislator to share your concerns.

For more information, please contact: 

JenniferJenn Burns Gray

Maine Audubon Staff Attorney and Advocate

jgray@maineaudubon.org

(207) 781-2330 x224