2018-02-16 / Letters

Land trusts work for Maine

To the editor:

Recently, there has been increased interest in Maine’s land trusts. As an advocate of land conservation, the Kennebunk Land Trust (KLT) welcomes the attention. However, for too long public debate on the land trust community has been plagued by speculation and misinformation. Maine people deserve better.

To provide a more accurate picture for policymakers and the public, the Maine Land Trust Network conducted a survey in 2017 of the state’s land trust organizations. The data and information collected has been revealing.

Kennebunk Land Trust, founded in 1972, is one of the oldest land trusts in southern Maine. In our service area, KLT has worked to protect more than 3,500 acres of land through ownership, conservation easement and partnership. These properties include upland forest, coastal marsh, agricultural fields, and many of them are open for recreational enjoyment. This work could not be done without our members, supporters and volunteers.

Thanks to Maine’s network of 80 land trusts, other regions of the state are seeing similar benefits. For example, on Maine’s land trust conserved lands the public enjoys a diverse network of outdoor recreational areas that rival those offered at state and federal parks, and, with few exceptions, use of these lands is free to all.

These land trust protected properties are especially critical in Maine, a state that continues to lag well behind others when it comes to public lands available for outdoor recreation. In fact, Maine has the lowest percentage of public lands (6.5 percent of the state) of any state east of the Appalachian Mountains. By comparison, more than 17 percent of New Hampshire is publicly owned. And, in Florida, one in every four acres is conservation land owned by the public.

As a bonus, unlike public lands, most land trust conserved lands are directly contributing to our local tax base. In fact, more than 94.5 percent of all lands conserved by land trusts in Maine remain on the tax rolls. These properties are also indirectly generating tax revenue by supporting local economies through the protection of more than 2.1 million acres of working forests, 36,000 acres of productive farmland and 60 access sites for marine fishermen. Land trust lands are also popular destinations for visitors, strengthening the tourism sector, the state’s largest industry.

Please visit us online to learn more at www.kennebunklandtrust.org. March is membership month at KLT and we encourage you to become a member and/or renew your membership. Our supporters are crucial in helping to protect these special natural places within community.

For more information on land trusts visit www.mltn.org. While there, check out Land Trusts Work for Maine. The culmination of the 2017 survey, this 12-page report outlines ways in which land trusts are strengthening Maine’s economy and enhancing our communities.

Gordon Collins
Kennebunk Land Trust

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