Key wetlands projects snag federal money

Posted Jan. 13, 2009, at 8:43 p.m.

Maine recently received roughly $2.5 million in federal grants for wetlands protection and restoration projects, including two in Washington County.

The bulk of the money went to the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and its partners to protect four ecologically significant wetlands in the state.

The $2.1 million, which will be matched by contributions from private landowners and conservation groups, came from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program.

The four projects to receive funding are:

— Mason Bay Wetlands Conservation, which received $521,000 to protect 496.5 acres of coastal wetland habitat in Mason Bay in Washington County;

— Grain Point Wetlands Conservation, which received $375,000 to protect 204.4 acres in Pleasant Bay in Washington County;

— Upper Maquoit Bay Coastal Wetlands, which received $600,000 to permanently protect a 72-acre tract of coastal shorefront on Maquoit Bay in Brunswick through the purchase of a conservation easement;

— Kennebec Estuary Robinhood Cove Project, which received $610,185 to protect 157.5 acres within the Little River section of the Kennebec Estuary Conservation Project in Sagadahoc County.

Ken Elowe, director of resources management at DIF&W and chairman of the Maine Wetlands Protection Coalition, said in a statement announcing the grant awards that it was extraordinary for Maine to receive funding for four out of the five projects it proposed.

“It was a cooperative effort that successfully garnered these funds in what essentially is a nationwide competition for money,” Elowe said.

Other groups involved in the Maine Wetlands Protection Coalition are The Nature Conservancy, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Gulf of Maine Coastal Program, the Pleasant River Wildlife Foundation, the Great Auk Land Trust and the Kennebec Estuary Conservation Collaboration.

The state Department of Environmental Protection and the Maine Natural Areas Program also received $487,000 in wetlands program development grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The money will be used to develop and improve wetland monitoring and assessment, collect information on rare wetland types in the state’s central and western mountains and inventory wetland restoration and protection opportunities statewide.

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