The 164-acre Howard Hill Conservation Area was purchased by the Kennebec Land Trust in October 2015 to be conserved and used as a place for low-impact public recreation. The project was awarded $377,500 by Land for Maine's Future in 2014. Credit: Courtesy of Kennebec Land Trust

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Cathy Breen, a Democrat from Falmouth, represents District 25 in the Maine Senate. Patrick Corey, a Republican from Windham represents District 25 in the Maine House of Representatives.

When we closed our doors to protect the health and safety of our communities last year, what was left open for us? The outdoors. Thousands of Mainers found peace and joy hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, birding, snowmobiling and exploring conserved places across our state. Yet, in the middle of the pandemic, we soon witnessed our public parks and land trust preserves feeling the pressure of overflowing parking lots and crowded public spaces. Fortunately, legislative leaders from both parties joined with Gov. Janet Mills to include $40 million in the new state budget to fund the acquisition of additional outdoor spaces through the Land for Maine’s Future Program.

Land conservation takes time. So, too, does the work of building bridges between unlikely allies such as sportsmen and conservationists, or Democratic senators and Republican representatives. However, it is this type of work that has a lasting impact beyond our legislative terms or the next election.

This has been the history of the LMF program from the start. It was established with bipartisan support in 1987, has been championed by policymakers of all parties for three decades, and continues to be bolstered by a coalition of organizations including environmental groups, forest products companies, commercial fishermen, professional guides and more. Its track record of success speaks for itself.  

Until recently, LMF had not received funding for nearly a decade. In 2018, we both had the honor of serving on the Land Conservation Task Force representing a broad array of interests including economic development, public health, outdoor recreation, small businesses and community leaders. Assembled through the leadership of The Nature Conservancy, Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, this diverse task force found common ground on a variety of issues and paved the way for the bipartisan success we can celebrate today.

LMF has demonstrated over and over that it is Maine’s most successful land conservation program. It has protected over 600,000 acres open to traditional public access with destinations in all 16 counties. LMF has also preserved 24 working waterfront sites along the coast, more than 9,700 acres of productive farmland and over 315,000 acres of working forest.

We have all benefited from this program in one way or another. Whether through the fresh greens we enjoy from a local farm whose land has been protected under this program, a weekend fishing trip with friends or a short walk in the woods near our homes, at some point we would bet that you have enjoyed the benefits of this vital program.

We are proud to have played our part in enacting the second largest investment in the program’s history. And we encourage you to celebrate this milestone with us, by visiting an LMF destination this year. Whether you’re a hunter, hiker, biker, birder, power-sporter or power walker, you will find an LMF-conserved property offering you and your family a great place to spend the day outdoors.

Thanks to Mills and our colleagues in the Maine Legislature, the list of LMF destinations will continue to grow for many years to come.