Conservation panel airs land inventory

Posted Nov. 26, 2008, at 7:39 p.m.

CAMDEN, Maine — The Select Board on Tuesday praised the efforts of the local Conservation Commission after an hour-long presentation of its natural lands inventory.

A comprehensive assessment that the Select Board requested in 2004 of significant undeveloped lands within the town, the inventory is a required responsibility of the commission under its bylaws. The project took four years to complete, said Karin Rector, chairman of the Conservation Commission.

“It’s really a measure of community significance as well as ecological features of the town,” she said of the inventory and accompanying map.

She said the inventory represents the efforts not only of the seven members of the commission, but also of former members such as Marina Schauffler, who was heavily involved at the beginning of the research.

Explaining the inventory process and the importance of the map, Rector said the town is “blessed with remarkable natural features — mountains, lakes, Penobscot Bay, rivers, woods and fields.”

“We are fortunate to have a substantial portion of this landscape forever preserved as Camden Hills State Park, a park that spans both the ocean and the mountains,” she said. “Open fields and agricultural soils are important not only for our heritage, but they are essential for various wildlife species as well.”

The inventory map, prepared using geographic information system technology, reflects data gathered on lands marked by one or more of the following features: prime soils, important wildlife or other natural values; buffer streams, rivers and lakes; and adjoining protected or municipal lands.

The inventory incorporates the results of a windshield survey the commission completed and a communitywide survey done in May 2006 indicating which lands residents most value, Rector said.

The inventory did not include the town’s recreational areas because they are already well-known.

The inventory map highlights properties with the greatest number of scenic and natural features, which are reflected with a numerical score of three, four or five.

Inventory inclusion has no effect on a parcel’s tax assessment or market worth, Rector said. It is merely a measure of community significance as determined by ecological criteria.

The map will undergo further revision before the commission presents it at a workshop to be held this winter for anyone in the community wanting to know more about how to permanently protect private lands through means such as donated or sold conservation easements, bequests and reserved life estates.

The completion of the mapping process will mark the beginning of a community dialogue about how best to ensure the future of the natural lands within Camden that sustain its scenic integrity, ecological health and biological diversity, Rector said.

Select Board member Sharon Gilbert presented technical data of the town for the interest of the commission.

The total acreage in Camden is 11,840 acres. Of that amount, the town owns 657 acres. The part of Camden Hills State Park located in Camden is 2,669 acres, while the total park is 5,532 acres.

The total acreage of Merry Spring in Camden is 25 acres.

“That gives us 3,351 [nontaxed] acres,” she said. Another 1,041 acres is in land trust or conservation land. Maine Coast Heritage Trust oversees another 20 acres of conservation land.

“The bottom line is that 62.7 percent of Camden’s land is taxed, and 37.3 percent is not taxed,” Gilbert said.

“We have to be careful of how we weigh all this,” Gilbert said.

gchappell@bangordailynews.net

236-4598

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