The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has awarded Maine nearly $1 million to protect habitat critical to some of the state’s threatened and endangered species.
The $945,760 grant will help fund conservation projects through Maine’s Landowner Incentive Program, which works with private property owners to preserve high-value habitat that supports rare plant and animal species.
The Landowner Incentive Program, which is run by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the Department of Conservation, has received roughly $3 million in federal support during the past three years. The most recent grant was the maximum amount available.
Ken Elowe, director of resource management for DIF&W, said he believes LIP has fared so well because federal officials approve of the way the state works with private landowners and land trusts to protect critical habitat. LIP also helps support Maine’s Beginning with Habitat program, which works with town officials to identify and protect valuable wildlife habitats within their jurisdiction.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has used Maine’s LIP as a model of how they would like to see it done across the country,” Elowe said.
LIP often works with land trusts that submit funding proposals for conservation projects. Every proposal must contain matching funds to supplement the LIP money, which is normally used to permanently lock away development rights on land, Elowe said.
A steering committee composed of representatives of both governmental and non-governmental agencies reviews the proposal and selects those that offer the maximum conservation benefit for the money spent.
Most of the money received in the current funding round will be spent in southern and coastal Maine because that area has both the highest biodiversity and the highest development pressure, Elowe said.
Maine is currently using LIP money to preserve roughly 4,300 acres in 12 projects.
“Considering that Maine is primarily in private ownership [approximately 95 percent], private landowners are integral to the conservation of our wildlife heritage and natural resources,” Patrick McGowan, commissioner of the Department of Conservation, said in a statement.