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Maine’s North Woods and the Department Merger


Update: Fall 2013

LD 837, An Act to Clarify the Laws Establishing the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, finalized the merger of the Departments of Agriculture and Conservation. This new department will shift their focus to economic development, a distinct change from the previous Department of Conservation’s mission to protect land resources of the state of Maine. Though disappointed in this outcome, we succeeded in having legislators provide strong oversight, which will make it difficult for the administration to do significant harm.

Background

Maine’s northern forest is the single largest undeveloped forestland in the eastern U.S. Its woods, water, and wildlife not only create outstanding recreational experiences for Maine people and visitors, bringing good jobs and new opportunities for economic growth but also provide valuable wildlife habitat. Historically, Maine’s Department of Conservation has housed the state’s core programs that benefit and conserve the north woods.

Maine Audubon is very concerned about the implications this merger will have for Maine’s wildlife and wildlife habitat and will closely monitor the new department to ensure that the mission and resources of the programs we care about remain intact.

We will closely follow these programs

Ecological Reserves

The Ecological Reserve System protects a representative variety of ecosystems that are relatively undisturbed, and retains plant and animal communities native to Maine in their natural condition. Representing just 70,000 acres on Maine’s Public Lands, these ecological reserves maintain habitats, serve as benchmarks for comparison with managed lands, and provide opportunities for education, monitoring and research.

Public Lands

These total more than a half million acres of wild lands and are managed for a variety of resource values including recreation, wildlife, and timber. The reserved lands are managed to ensure that sensitive resources such as rare plants and backcountry recreational areas are not disturbed by more intensive management activities, such as forestry.

Natural Areas Program

This program serves Maine’s citizens as the most comprehensive source on the State’s important natural features. With landowner permission, the Program inventories lands that support rare and endangered plants, rare natural communities and ecosystems, and outstanding examples of more common natural communities and ecosystems.

Land Use Planning Commission

Charged with oversight responsibilities for Maine’s 10.5 million-acre Unorganized Territory, LUPC’s Commissioners and Staff must balance economic opportunities with conservation of the jurisdiction’s natural resources.

Land for Maine’s Future

The Land for Maine’s Future program is unquestionably one of the state’s most popular programs. For more than two decades, it has enhanced the Maine’s long-term economic health by conserving key assets like working farms, working forests, waterfronts for commercial fishing opportunities and key tourism and recreation sites all across the state.

Land Use Planning

The Land Use Team provides municipalities with the funding, technical expertise, model ordinances, and training they need to support growth and conserve valuable natural resources at the same time. It also regularly assists with local, regional and statewide planning by working with comprehensive planning committees, town officials, regional planning commissions, and the statewide Beginning with Habitat program.