The value of the Land for Maine’s Future program is obvious this time of year.
Hundreds of shoppers flock Saturday mornings to Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick to buy local produce, meats, baked goods and prepared foods at a farmers market on intown land that remains a working farm in part because of support from the Land for Maine’s Future program. In addition to putting money in the pockets of Maine farmers, the Saturday market draws potential customers to merchants in a town trying to adjust economically from the loss of 5,000 jobs that departed with the closure of Brunswick Naval Air Station in 2011.
Meanwhile in Manchester, Maine families and visitors comb the trees at Lakeside Orchards in search of the perfect apple. The 13,000 to 18,000 bushels that don’t go home with those pickers find their way to supermarkets, school cafeterias, colleges and hospitals. A conservation easement funded by the Land for Maine’s Future program helped keep alive Lakeside’s 140-year tradition of growing Maine apples, provides healthy local fruit to students and hospital patients, and allowed eight full-time and 20 seasonal workers to stay on the job.
On the coast, at Holbrook’s Wharf in Harpswell and at the Port Clyde Fishermen’s Cooperative in St. George, men and women who make their living from the sea now know that they and their children will retain access to the wharves where generations have loaded and unloaded their catch. Maine’s maritime heritage endures in those waterfront communities because the Land for Maine’s Future program buoyed local conservation efforts with funding designed to ensure that fishing harbors remain a place where Mainers can earn a living.
Inland, leaf peepers visiting from out of state park at vistas such as Height of Land above the Rangeley Lake system or hike trails on Bald Mountain before spending their money at inns and shops in Maine’s rural hamlets. Grants from the Land for Maine’s Trust helped the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust buy Bald Mountain and maintain an extensive trail system that attracts snowmobile enthusiasts during the winter.
Maine’s natural resources are priceless, but preserving them requires an occasional investment, which is why the Land for Maine’s Future program has existed for 25 years.
Question 3 on the Nov. 6 state ballot asks voters to borrow $5 million to restock the Land for Maine’s Future coffers. The program’s diverse portfolio of almost 200 proven successes — which includes preserving family farms, working waterfronts and sportsmen’s paradises — offers ample evidence that voting yes represents a sound investment.
A February 2012 study by The Trust for Public Land calculates that “every dollar invested in land conservation through LMF returned $11 in natural goods and services to the Maine economy.”
Question 3 offers more than feel-good euphoria for those who might be inclined to hug a tree. Past Land for Maine’s Future projects have kept more than 500,000 acres open to hunters, anglers and other outdoors enthusiasts. Expanding the Land for Maine’s Future focus, passage of Question 3 will, for the first time, dedicate funding to “make strategic investments in conserving habitat for deer to help restore healthy deer numbers and also benefit countless other wildlife species in the northern half of Maine,” according to the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, which endorses the bond.
In many cases, Land for Maine’s Future grants augment private fundraising or pay for easements that allow financially strained property owners to hold onto their land and continue to use it for farming, fishing, hunting and other activities that define the Maine way of life. A yes vote on Question 3 will continue this Maine-based success story.