Washington County conservation effort awarded $980,000 federal grant

Posted Jan. 04, 2012, at 2:44 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 04, 2012, at 6:39 p.m.
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Eric Zelz | BDN
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ADDISON, Maine — An effort to create a new 2,070-acre wildlife management area on the eastern shore of Washington County’s Pleasant Bay has been awarded a $980,000 federal grant to be used in acquiring 177 acres abutting Long Cove.

The funds awarded under the Department of the Interior’s National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program were among $6.8 million in grants awarded this week to support seven projects designed to conserve and restore coastal wetlands in Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia. The Maine grant is being matched by $450,000 being provided through the Pleasant River Wildlife Foundation, which submitted the federal grant application.

The parcels being acquired Down East will be managed to protect rare plants and fragile wildlife habitats in areas adjacent to Long Cove, Seal Cove and Oscar’s Pond. The relatively intact natural landscape includes spruce forests, freshwater wetlands, intertidal lands and eel grass beds, which provide food for many types of wildlife, from bufflehead and goldeneye ducks to salmon and softshell clams.

Through a partnership with nine conservation agencies, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will manage the new Pleasant Bay Wildlife Management Area.

“This area will not only protect public access forever, but will allow all things that typically happen at a state wildlife management area to happen here,” said Lois Winter, executive director of the Pleasant River Wildlife Foundation. “We’ll be setting up an endowment fund that will be used to make a payment in lieu of taxes donation to the town of Addison and to support stewardship costs, as Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is cash-strapped. That money can be used to construct trials, or do whatever the state deems appropriate for an area like this.”

While most wildlife management areas are created to preclude property subdivision that fragments ecologically sensitive habitats, Winter said this project is “de-fragmenting” an area that has already been subdivided but has seen minimal development.

“The process of putting this wildlife management area together is quite complex,” she said. “We’re taking an area that is now divided into 37 parcels and putting them together.”

Winter said the foundation has submitted many other applications for grants to a wide range of potential supporters. The timeline for completing property acquisition and turning the area over to state management will be determined by the pace of attracting the additional funds required.

The Pleasant River Wildlife Foundation, Winter said, is a small land trust organization.

“We are not membership-based, as are most of the larger land trusts,” she said. “But we are laser-focused on land protection.”

Maryland received two federal wetlands grants, collectively totaling $2 million. Grants of $1 million each were awarded to projects in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia. A Delaware conservation effort was awarded an $829,400 grant. Nationwide, the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program is expected to award $20.5 million in grants that will be matched by almost $21 million from state and local governments, private landowners and conservation groups.

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