ADDISON, Maine — For 30 years, conservationists and land trusts have worked to protect the Pleasant Bay area — named by the state of Maine as one of the top shorebird habitats and migration areas on the coast — which includes three islands and 7 miles of coastline.
This week, nearly $1 million was earmarked to protect the bay further, along with Long Cove and Seal Cove, as part of the Pleasant River estuary.
This grant is the first step in creating a new wildlife management area, the ninth in Maine, but the only one between Rockland and Cobscook Bay at the Canadian border.
The grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Coastal Wetlands Conservation program, in the amount of $962,000, will help acquire four properties totaling 170.9 acres.
The grant also will trigger the donation of a third 64.8-acre parcel.
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will manage the parcels as part of the 1,920-acre Pleasant Bay Wildlife Management Area.
Roger Clapp of Addison is one of the property owners whose land will become part of the new wildlife area.
He is a member of the Downeast Coastal Conservancy and the Heads of the Estuaries Partnership, groups that along with the Pleasant River Wildlife Foundation, are working collaboratively to conserve lands from Steuben to Eastport.
“This grant really starts the ball rolling,” Clapp said, “and meshes nicely with many other conservation efforts in the Washington County area.”
Private donations of land, U.S. Fish and Wildlife grants, and land trust purchases already have protected lands separated and cut up over the years by subdivision, with the most intensive conservation activities taking place in the last decade.
Clapp said the salt marshes and coastal wetlands are well worth protecting.
“In addition to benefiting numerous species of migratory birds and other wildlife, this will ensure public access to the project area’s coastal wetlands and adjacent uplands for low-impact, recreational and educational uses,” he said. Since the property will be managed by DIF&W, it will be open to hunting, he said.
Biologists have documented 19 species of coastal shorebirds and 17 species of waterfowl, including large numbers of migrating green-winged teal and black ducks, a species of great management concern along the entire Atlantic Flyway. The wetlands have been designated by the state as being of high value as a feeding and roosting habitat for shorebirds, waterfowl and wading birds.
Bobcats, coyotes, fishers, black bears, moose and deer inhabit the uplands around the cove and fronting Pleasant Bay, according to the PRWF. Birds in the new wildlife management area include three breeding pairs of bald eagles, rare peregrine falcons, nesting and foraging ospreys as well as ruffed grouse, spruce grouse, woodcock and a host of songbirds, many of them tropical migrants.
In addition, the tidal flats of Long Cove and Seal Cove and the adjacent waters of Pleasant Bay support commercially harvestable populations of clams, marine worms, mussels, sea urchins, scallops and lobsters.
Clapp said the HEP has been working with DIF&W to undertake the management area project. “This has been a proposal in the works for more than a year,” he said. “But the area had no property until this grant. This is the beginning.”
U.S. Sens. Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins made the announcement of the award, which is part of a $2.3 million package that will protect nearly 500 acres of Maine’s coastal wetlands.
Two other USFW grants were provided to help protect Basin Cove and Curtis Cove in Harpswell, and the Henshaw parcel and Maquoit Bay shorefront in Brunswick.
“Maine’s coastal resources are precious,” Sens. Snowe and Collins said in a joint statement. “This investment will help support state, nonprofit and private landowner conservation interests to work together to preserve unique places in Maine.”