MLTN Report to the Joint Standing Committee On Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (ACF) Study of land trust conserved lands

July–October 2017 - (For download - PDF Report)

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Report that Jeff Romaro sent to Governor LePage's office from the Maine Land Trust Network


October 2017


As part of the Biennial budget enacted in July of 2017, Maine’s State Legislature directed its Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (ACF) to conduct a study of land trust conserved lands.


The need for this land trust study arose during the debate surrounding a series of bills over the past few years, which revealed a lack of information regarding land trust conserved lands in Maine. Specifically, the study asked for the following:


A. The property tax payments nonprofit conservation organizations make on those conserved lands including property tax payments, payments in lieu of taxes and other similar payments;


B. The economic impact of those conserved lands on other real property, including working farms and commercial forest land, and the access to those conserved lands for licensed Maine guides, commercial fishermen and marine shellfish and worm harvesters;


C. The economic impact of those conserved lands on the public and Maine's tourism economy, including opportunities to hunt, fish, hike, snowmobile, canoe and engage in other outdoor recreational activities. The committee shall determine the miles of trails and the number of water access sites and similar recreational infrastructure;


D. The community benefits of those conserved lands owned by nonprofit conservation organizations, including education programs, downtown revitalization efforts, community gardens, youth sports activities and similar initiatives; and


E. Examine any other issues that the committee determines are related to the purpose of the study.


To help the ACF Committee complete its tasks and paint a full picture of the beneficial role land trusts play in

communities across Maine, the Maine Land Trust Network surveyed the state’s land trusts in the summer and fall of 2017. This report is a summary of that survey. However, it is just a snapshot of the work being done by land

trusts across the state. For more information on Maine’s land trust community, visit


Photos (this page): a chestnut-sided warbler sings at the Downeast Coastal Conservancy’s Pike Lands Preserve in Lubec (top); A beautiful summer day at the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust’s Skolfield Shores Preserve (bottom).


Cover photos (clockwise from top left): Mother and daughter enjoy Boothbay Region Land Trust’s Penny Lake Preserve; farmer bales hay at Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s Crystal Spring Farm; snowmobilers explore Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust’s Rangeley River Preserve; angler fishes for trout in Western Foothills Land Trust’s Crooked River Forest; and canoers marvel at fall foliage along the shores of West Grand Lake in the Downeast Lakes Community Forest.

Maine’s network of more than 75 land trusts has significantly increased public access to the outdoors for activities including hiking, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, ATV riding, birdwatching, boating, and sightseeing. Based on a survey completed in 2017, Maine’s land trust conserved lands offer the following outdoor recreational amenities:


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Hiking/Walking                 1260 miles

Mountain Biking                 275 miles

Snowmobiling                     570 miles

ATV Riding                         345 miles

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Boat Launch Sites                           203               Coastal                                62               Freshwater                        141

Beaches/Swimming Areas               210

Downeast Lakes Community Forest


More than 2.34 million acres

More than 90% of all acres conserved by land trusts

Rangeley Lake's Heritage Trust's Cupsuptic Lake Campground

1 In July 2017, Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) surveyed members of the Maine Land Trust Network, which includes most of the State’s land trust community. 70 organizations participated. Data from a 2015 MCHT land trust census was used to fill in gaps for those organizations that did not complete the survey.


Recreational amenities provided by land trust conserved lands are part of a larger network of conservation lands in Maine, which includes State Parks, Public Reserve Lands, State Wildlife Management Areas, Baxter State Park, White Mountain National Forest, Acadia National Park, Appalachian Trail National Park, Katahdin Woods National Monument, national wildlife refuges, and municipal parks.

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Mount Agamenticus is the centerpiece of a 13,500-acre recreational area where land trust preserves, municipal parks, IF & W wildlife management areas, and private conserved lands seamlessly connect to the benefit of resident flora, fauna, and outdoor enthusiasts. The region boasts 40 miles of trails used by an estimated 30,000 visitors each year for snowmobiling, biking, ATV riding, and hiking. These lands are overseen by a Steering Committee with representatives from the Towns of York and South Berwick, York Water District, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Great Works Regional Land Trust, and York Land Trust.

To put the recreational offerings on land trust conserved lands into context, compare them with the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands Public Reserve system, which manages a little more than 600,000 acres in the state. Maine’s Public Reserve system offers fewer than 15% as many miles of hiking trails (175 miles vs. 1,260 miles) and far fewer boat launch sites (35 sites vs. 203 sites). In addition, land trust lands collectively see a lot more public use, because compared to Maine’s Public Reserves, most land trust preserves are located closer to population centers and the state’s most popular tourist destinations.

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With so many recreational amenities to offer, it is not surprising that land trusts throughout Maine are busy partnering in different ways with innkeepers, guides, outfitters, local chambers of commerce, and others focused on making Maine a more desirable place for visitors to explore. Here are some examples from around the state:

Southern Maine


  • Great Works Regional Land Trust works with approximately 40 area businesses to promote the land trust’s recreational opportunities and to make their trail guide available to customers.

  • Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) is supported annually by more than 80 local businesses, including water sport companies, restaurants, book stores, hotels and inns. Each year, BTLT works with many of these business members to co-sponsor community programs and events.

Midcoast Maine

  • Damariscotta River Association (DRA) partners with 70 local businesses, including local hotels and B&Bs that offer DRA land trust trail maps to their guests.


  • Coastal Mountains Land Trust developed a ‘Take a Hike Brochure’ and ‘Conserved Land Direction Pad’ that is distributed monthly to area inns and the local chambers of commerce.


Downeast Maine


  • Downeast Lakes Land Trust (DLLT) partners with 40 Grand Lake Stream guides who bring clients to their Downeast Lakes Community Forest. DLLT also invites a dozen area lodges and inns to direct their guests to fish, hunt, hike, boat, and enjoy other forms of outdoor recreation there.


  • Maine Coast Heritage Trust and Downeast Coastal Conservancy have worked with state and federal agencies, as well as 19 local businesses to publish Cobscook Trails, a trail guide distributed to residents and visitors of the Cobscook Bay/Bold Coast region.​

Northern Maine


  • The Nature Conservancy (TNC) provides 93 bear bait sites and each year welcomes more than 250 paddlers to their remote St. John lands. TNC also annually hosts nearly 5,000 snowmobilers on three trails that wind through their Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area.


  • A 2016 study conducted by economist David Vail, found that lodge guests, visitors, and activities within the Appalachian Mountain Club’s 75,000-acre Maine Woods property generated $2.18 million in spending in Piscataquis County in 2015.


Western Maine


  • Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and Greater Bridgton Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce strongly promote Loon Echo Land Trust lands in marketing materials. Featured destinations include Pleasant Mountain, Hacker’s Hill, and the Raymond Community Forest.

  • Four local canoe/kayak/tube rental businesses and six drift boat fishing guides use Mahoosuc Land Trust’s four boat launch sites on the Androscoggin River throughout the summer.

Case Study: Boothbay Region Land Trust

16 Preserves: 1,169 acres

Hiking Trails: 32 miles

ATV/Biking Trails: 3 miles

Boat Launch: 1 site

Beaches: 2 sites

Analysis completed in 2013 estimated that there are more than 67,000 visitors

to Boothbay Region Land Trust preserves each year. Their preserve guide is the most

requested brochure at the Boothbay Harbor Region Chamber of Commerce.


Maine land trusts are also focused on the conservation of the state’s working landscapes. In fact, land trusts have completed projects in all sixteen counties that benefit important Maine-based industries such as forest products, fishing, and agriculture. These conservation efforts bolster local economies and support jobs, especially in rural parts of Maine.


  • In 1999, the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) established a Farmers’ Market to advance their mission of supporting local agriculture. Located on Crystal Spring Farm, a 320-acre farm owned by BTLT, the market is now one of the largest in Maine. With forty vendors, many of whom have been with the market since its inception, the market offers a wide variety of local, fresh products including vegetables, dairy, meat, fish, baked goods and artisanal and prepared foods.


  • Downeast Lakes Land Trust’s 55,578-acre Downeast Lakes Community Forest supports approximately 170 forest products industry jobs in Maine. In certifying the Downeast Lakes Community Forest in 2015, the Forest Stewardship Council, an independent third-party auditor of forest practices, noted, “Numerous products are harvested from the forest and agreements are in place with the community to allow hunting, use of gravel from naturally occurring pits, pine boughs for local crafts, firewood, and wood used by local artisans for specialty products. All forest use is aimed at providing benefits to the community.”


  • Located in a community where roughly 30% of its residents rely on the fishing industry in some fashion, Harpswell Heritage Land Trust (HHLT) works in many ways to protect and conserve the marine resources upon which local shellfish harvesters depend for their living. While four HHLT preserves provide commercial access to valuable flats, other trust-conserved properties include areas local diggers frequent by boat.

Land Trust Conserved Working Lands

More than 85% of the acres land trusts have conserved (2.14 million acres) are working forestlands

36,000 acres of working farmlands

7 working waterfront properties

More than 60 access sites for clammers, wormers, and other marine workers