Gulf of Maine Coastal Program
Northeast Region

News and announcements

2007 Archives

Pleasant Bay Region
Pleasant Bay Region. Credit: USFWS

Maine Wetland Protection Coalition:
Linking Maine's Past with its Future

December 10, 2007

Project Coordinator:
Stewart Fefer

If you would like to read a quick up-date on 18 years of quiet behind-the-scenes work of the Maine Wetland Protection Coalition, read Maine Wetland Protection Coalition: Linking Maine's Past with its Future, a four-page article published in the Nov-Dec. 2007 issue of National Wetlands Newsletter.

The Newsletter is the national publication of the Environmental Law Institute, and this most recent issue is dedicated to landscape-scale partnership work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Coastal Program. The article about the Maine Wetlands Protection Coalition was one of five included in the newsletter. Written by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Gulf of Maine Coastal Program staff who have actively participated in the Coalition, the article describes concerns with wetland loss and habitat development in Maine, explains the functions of the Maine Wetland Protection Coalition, and describes our collective accomplishments in permanently protecting some of Maine's highest value wetlands and upland buffers.

Deep thanks to all of our Coalition partners - our longstanding members, recent recruits and all of our colleagues who have participated through the years to make land conservation land projects happen, one-at-a-time:

  • The Nature Conservancy (Maine Chapter),
  • Maine Coast Heritage Trust
  • Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Gulf of Maine Coastal Program
  • Maine State Planning Office
  • Ducks Unlimited
  • Trust for Public Lands
  • Local land trusts
  • Landowners
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Center Pond fishway
Center Pond fishway. Credit: USFWS

Gulf of Maine Coastal Program supports 23 projects to benefit fish and wildlife in Maine's rivers and streams

August 28, 2007

Project Coordinators:
Sandra Lary
207-781-8364 x19

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Gulf of Maine Coastal Program is pleased to announce that we are providing nearly $750,000 to support diadromous (searun) fish habitat protection, restoration, and assessment projects in Maine this year. $485,000 of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funds have been directed to the Maine Atlantic Salmon Conservation Fund through a direct Congressional appropriation, supported by our Congressional delegation and by our national and regional Fish and Wildlife Service leadership. According to Jed Wright, Senior Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist who focuses on Atlantic salmon conservation initiatives, "Since 2000, the Maine Atlantic Salmon Conservation Fund has received between $1 - $2 million annually. This funding has helped protect over 81,000 acres and opened many miles of historic salmon habitat." This year's funds have been reduced, yet will continue to be directed to high priority habitat assessment, outreach, restoration and protection projects to benefit Maine's Atlantic salmon habitat, with a focus on the eight federally listed rivers.

In addition, Gulf of Maine Coastal Program is providing $161,000 received from the Service's competitive grants program along with $100,000 from the Fish America Foundation. "These funds, combined with several thousand dollars from our office's discretionary 'project fund,' will be directed to river restoration projects that benefit any of a dozen species of searun fish, as well as other fish and wildlife that depend on intact river corridors in Maine," said Sandra Lary, Senior Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist who focuses on diadromous fish restoration activities throughout Maine. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funds can be used with great flexibility, for on-the-ground implementation as well as other vital components of searun fish restoration work -- such as planning and design, permitting, community outreach, building capacity of locally-based conservation groups, monitoring, and inventory of barriers that impede fish passage.

USFWS funds will be used to:

Baby eels
Baby eels. Credit: Doug Watts
  • Install new or improved fish passage at more than a dozen sites,
  • Restore spawning and rearing habitat in nearly 13,500 acres of lake habitat,
  • Restore spawning and rearing habitat in nearly 25 miles of river habitat,
  • Initiate a comprehensive fish passage barrier inventory covering more than 1,300 sites,
  • Continue a loaner bridge program, designed to eliminate the need to install hundreds of permanent culverts,
  • Support the Penobscot River Restoration Partnership, a landscape-scale initiative aimed at re-establishing 500 river-miles of passage for searun fish,
  • Permanently protect riparian habitat along the Sheepscot and Narraguagus Rivers, which harbor federally listed Atlantic salmon,
  • Support outreach and education in Atlantic salmon watersheds,
  • Build capacity for two locally-based conservation groups engaged in Atlantic salmon habitat protection and restoration projects,
  • Restore natural instream habitat diversity on Atlantic salmon streams, and
  • Monitor fish passage at two priority sites.

"Successful implementation of all of these projects relies on the cooperation, technical support and matching funds from landowners, municipalities, federal and state agencies, universities, and conservation organizations committed to protecting and restoring our rivers for diadromous fish and many other species," commented Project Leader Stewart Fefer. Key players working with our Gulf of Maine Coastal Program staff include multiple USFWS offices (Engineering Division, Fisheries Resource Office, Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, Maine Field Office), USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Maine Dept. of Marine Resources (including the Diadromous Fish Division and the former Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission), Maine Forest Service, NOAA, Maine Corporate Wetland Restoration Partnership, Fish America Foundation, land trusts and watershed associations. More than thirty other organizations have also participated in these high priority river and stream restoration initiatives.

Restoring rivers, providing fish passage, and increasing populations of native searun fish is important for more than fish. Re-establishing searun fish boosts the biological diversity and productivity of the entire river corridor, as well as our estuaries and oceans - for everything from aquatic insects, mussels, amphibians, waterbirds and furbearing mammals to commercially and recreationally important fish, seabirds, marine mammals, and us.

For a list and brief description of each project funded, click here (DOC 40 KB).

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Nonesuch salt marsh
Nonesuch salt marsh. Credit: NRCS

Nonesuch salt marsh restoration project completed

April 24, 2007

Project Coordinator:
Sandra Lary
207-781-8364 x19

This winter, Scarborough Marsh restoration partners completed their fifth major salt marsh restoration project in Scarborough Marsh Wildlife Management Area in four years. This most recent project promises to help restore the ecological health of the Nonesuch River, a 247-acre subwatershed of the 3,100-acre Scarborough Marsh. According to Wayne Munroe, District Conservationist for the USDA -Natural Resources Conservation Service, "The Nonesuch River salt marsh has been negatively impacted by old hayroads and man-made drainage ditches that cut across the marsh, starving the marsh of needed tidal waters." In part because of the lack of tidal flow, multiple stands of non-native Phragmites have been invading sections of the Nonesuch River salt marsh.

For more information on Phragmites, view a Phragmites fact sheet at:

The Nonesuch River salt marsh restoration work included four main components:
1) breaching the old hayroads at strategic locations,
2) plugging ditches to improve hydrology and associated ecological functions on the marsh,
3) treating the Phragmites stands to minimize the threat of broad-scale invasion, and
4) conducting pre-restoration monitoring in 2005 and continuing with post-restoration monitoring through 2010.

"Scarborough Marsh Wildlife Management Area, owned and managed by Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is well-known as one of Maine's premier salt marshes. Our restoration partnership at Scarborough is all about repairing past environmental damage and re-establishing biological vitality for all of the fish and wildlife that depend on a naturally functioning salt marsh," commented Stewart Fefer, Project Leader at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Gulf of Maine Coastal Program. Gulf of Maine Coastal Program has played an active role in designing the restoration project, coordinating complex permit requirements with multiple agencies and NGO partners, raising funds, developing the monitoring protocol and selecting Northern Ecological Services, Inc. as environmental consultants to conduct monitoring. Natural Resources Conservation Service also provided a great deal of technical and engineering assistance, as well as the bulk of the funds to implement the work. Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife offered biological guidance, hired SWAMP, Inc. as the contractor to implement the restoration work, and provided oversight for the project. Friends of Scarborough Marsh, a locally-based coalition of private citizens and organizations dedicated to protecting, conserving, restoring and enhancing the Marsh and its watershed, played a pivotal role in coordinating the work of all partners.

According to CD Armstrong, the President of Friends of Scarborough Marsh, "Thanks to the financial, technical and biological support of all of our partners, this restoration project promises to hold marvelous benefits by controlling invasive species and re-establishing high value natural habitat for fish and wildlife that frequent the marsh."

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Black duck
Black Duck. Credit: USFWS

$375,00 in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funds awarded to five Maine habitat protection projects

March 30, 2007

Project Coordinator:
Stewart Fefer

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that conservation groups in Maine have received $375,000 to support five habitat protection initiatives through the Small North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants program. Maine received more grants than any other state this year, capturing 19% of the nearly $2 million allocated nationwide. Each of the five Maine grants received $75,000 -- the maximum amount allowed through this program. In each case, the federal funds are being matched with other funding sources. Together, all of the funds are being used to permanently protect high value habitat for migratory birds. "Thanks to the great work of our conservation partners, the five Maine projects will permanently protect nearly 5,600 acres of wetlands and upland buffer that hold high value for waterbirds and other migratory birds," commented Andrew Milliken, the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Lands protected with these funds stretch across the state, from Greenville in the northwest to Bangor in the east, to the downeast coast, and down to the Bethel region in southwestern Maine.

"In order to complete all of these important projects, local and regionally based land trusts and national conservation organizations have worked in coordination with state or federal biologists to identify habitat protection opportunities, negotiate with willing landowners, raise matching funds and finalize the nationally competitive grant proposals," said Stewart Fefer, Project Leader for the US Fish and Wildlife Service's Gulf of Maine Coastal Program. Gulf of Maine Coastal Program staff supported several of these grant proposals by providing and interpreting biological data, offering strategic advice and guidance, writing biological components of the grant, editing draft proposals, and providing final maps and wetland calculations.

This year's successful Small NAWCA projects included the following:

Northern Corea Heath: This 606-acre acre acquisition project, actively supported by Frenchman Bay Conservancy and Maine Coast Heritage Trust, is adjacent to the Corea Heath unit of Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge. According to Barbara Welch, Executive Director of the Frenchman Bay Conservancy, "This grant helps us more than double the area of protected critical wetland habitat on the Corea Peninsula.

Sucker Brook Project: This 227-acre acquisition project, actively negotiated and coordinated by Greater Lovell Land Trust, protects nearly a mile of brook frontage, high value wetlands and upland buffer under imminent threat from development. "The project advances a larger vision supported by the Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy to establish a permanently protected river and floodplain forest corridor from the White Mountains to the Saco River," commented Tom Henderson, Executive Director of the Greater Lovell Land Trust.

Northeast Penjajawoc Property Acquisition: This 83-acre acquisition project, actively supported by the Bangor Land Trust, permanently protects a significant wetland upstream of the Penjajawoc Marsh, as well as the northern tip of the Penjajawoc Marsh itself, well-known for its exceptional waterbird viewing opportunities. "We are thrilled to have this help from NAWCA to protect a crucial link in an interconnected wetland chain that runs from the Penjajawoc Marsh northwards beyond Pushaw Lake," remarked Lucy Quimby, President of the Bangor Land Trust.

Big Hill and Second Pond Forest Reserve: 1,609 acres of beautiful forest lands, located halfway between Bangor and Ellsworth, have been permanently protected, with the active involvement of the New England Forestry Foundation. Whit Beals at New England Forestry Foundation noted, "Thanks to the support of NAWCA, the landowners and other conservation partners, this project establishes a working forest easement on the property that guarantees no residential development and maintains habitat values for migratory birds and other wildlife, trails for public access and stunning scenery."

Caribou Bog / Katahdin Iron Works: This acquisition project, actively supported by Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), has protected a 3,070-acre tract in west central Maine, with high value wetland habitat, supporting priority landbirds and waterfowl. It is part of a larger 37,000 acre purchase in the heart of Maine's 100 Mile Wilderness that represents AMC's "largest single investment ever in conservation and recreation lands," according to Walter Graff, the Deputy Director of AMC.

The North American Wetlands Conservation Act provides U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funds to implement the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, which was developed to manage, restore and/or permanently protect our continent's remaining high value habitat for migratory birds (with and emphasis on wetlands, waterbirds and federally threatened/endangered species). This international effort funds the Small Grants program (up to $75,000 in federal funds) and the Large Grants program (up to $1,000,000 in federal funds). In Maine, we have received 27 Small NAWCA grants, contributing more than $1.4million and matched with nearly $9.9 million to acquire and permanently protect nearly 17,000 acres from willing sellers. Small NAWCA projects have ranged in size from 17 acres to 8,600 acres. Maine has also received 14 Large NAWCA grants contributing $11.75 million and matched with $113.3 million to permanently protect nearly 1.5 million acres.

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Lower Kennebec River salt marsh
Lower Kennebec River. Credit: USFWS

Two National Coastal Wetland Conservation Grants Awarded

March 13, 2007

Project Coordinator:
Stewart Fefer

In February, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant program delivered $1.8 million to two projects in Maine. $803,200 was awarded to support the work of the Maine Wetlands Protection Coalition by permanently protecting important coastal wetland and upland buffer habitat in the Holt Forest in the Lower Kennebec River. An additional $1 million was awarded to support the Penobscot River Restoration Partnership's efforts to restore 500 miles of free fish passage along the Penobscot River and its tributaries.

The federal grant for Holt Forest will be used to acquire a conservation easement on the 320.1 acre parcel located on the Back River, in Arrowsic, Maine. "Owned by a family foundation that supports long-term research conducted by to the University of Maine, the Holt Forest is finally permanently protected for its fish and wildlife values, and for its ongoing use as a university field research station," commented Jack Witham, Director of the Research Forest and Board President of the Lower Kennebec Regional Land Trust. As part of the grant proposal, an additional 120 acres of land, including 66.4 acres of wetland habitat, was provided as non-federal match by The Nature Conservancy. This project was part of the broader decade-long effort of the Maine Wetlands Protection Coalition, designed to permanently protect important coastal habitat of Lower Kennebec River and Merrymeeting Bay. The Coalition taps into the collective talents of many partners - willing landowners, local land trusts, local officials, The Nature Conservancy, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Gulf of Maine Coastal Program. The Holt Forest project was particularly critical, because it protects the last large parcel needed to create a contiguous block of 1,075 acres of conservation lands within the Back River Corridor," remarked Will Brune, Director of Land Protection at The Nature Conservancy.

Protecting the Holt Forest is the latest in a series of ambitious initiatives since the mid-1990s that has led to the permanent protection of 11,500 acres in the Kennebec Estuary. To date, this work has been supported with five Large NAWCA grants, four National Coastal Wetland Grants, a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant, a state Land for Maine's Future grant, and private donations from state and local land trusts and willing landowners. "The Kennebec Estuary has been a focus of attention for many conservation groups because of the increasing threat of residential development in this area where thousands of migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds and searun fish seek refuge." The region also provides critical habitat for rare, threatened and endangered species, including nesting osprey and eagles, short-nosed and Atlantic sturgeon, piping plover and least and roseate terns," commented Stewart Fefer, Project Leader at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Gulf of Maine Coastal Program.

Veazie Dam on the Penobscot River
Veazie Dam. Credit: USFWS

The second $1 million Coastal Wetland grant was awarded to the Penobscot River Restoration Trust in order to provide additional federal support for a large-scale river restoration plan. "Once complete, this ambitious effort will re-establish an estimated 1,000 miles of riverine wetland habitat along the Penobscot River for diadromous (searun) fish," commented Laura Rose Day, Executive Director of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust. Penobscot project partners, including U.S. Dept. of the Interior (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and National Park Service), NOAA Fisheries, the State of Maine, PPL Corporation, Penobscot Indian Nation, American Rivers, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Maine Audubon, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Trout Unlimited, and The Nature Conservancy are working together to implement the plan. Phase I involves the acquisition of the three dams for approximately $24 million. In Phase II, an additional estimated $25 million will be spent to demolish the Great Works and Veazie Dams and construct a bypass facility at the Howland Dam. Currently, federal and private funds are being raised to complete Phase I. NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation have already provided $4.5 million dollars. An additional $7.5 million has been raised privately, and the President's FY08 budget proposal for NOAA includes a significant funding request that would bring Phase I near completion.

Restoration partners recognize many biological, economic and social values of the Penobscot River Restoration project. Removing mainstem dams will be done in a manner that maintains hydropower resources yet allows the populations of twelve different species of diadromous fish to rebound. Many more fish in the river will support increased populations of fish-eating birds and furbearing mammals, helping revitalize the biological vitality of the entire river basin. Return of fish and wildlife, in turn, will attract more recreational users and help revitalize the economy of communities along the river corridor and will renew opportunities for the Penobscot Indian Nation to re-establish its treaty-reserved fishing rights and exercise 10,000 years of sacred traditions.

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Undersized culvert on an Atlantic salmon river
Undersized culvert. Credit: USFWS

Maine Atlantic Salmon Conservation Fund supports 18 more conservation projects

February 27, 2007

Project Coordinator:
Jed Wright

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Gulf of Maine Coastal Program, in partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, is pleased to announce that the Maine Atlantic Salmon Conservation Fund (MASCF) has selected 18 projects for funding this year. Federal grant funds totaling nearly one million dollars, matched by more than $1.6 million in partner funds, have been awarded to:

  • permanently protect 27,368 acres and 42 miles of river corridor,
  • restore riverine and riparian habitat at 58 sites on federally listed salmon rivers,
  • support education and outreach activities that increase landowner and public support for watershed stewardship activities,
  • conduct inventories and assessments to help identify highest priority on-the-ground conservation projects,
  • enhance organizational capacity of locally-based watershed councils and land trusts,
  • design effective fish passage at an existing dam on Sedgeunkedunk Stream, a Penobscot River tributary,
  • conduct water quality monitoring and improve water quality,
  • fund the fifth and final year of the conservation agreement with Greenland that has suspended the commercial fishery for wild Atlantic salmon, and
  • implement a captive-reared Atlantic salmon broodstock program in the Aroostook River.

"This wide variety of projects, all coordinated through non-regulatory voluntary partnerships, will directly benefit Atlantic salmon recovery in Maine, commented Tom Kelsch, Director of Conservation Programs, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Grants range in size from $5,000 to $100,000 and range in scope from a landscape-scale habitat protection project on the Machias River to an ambitious fish barrier inventory in the Kennebec and Penobscot watersheds.

The Machias River Project Phase III will permanently protect 27,164 acres of critical headwater habitat in the uppermost portions of the Machias watershed, building upon the already-completed Phase I and II projects. Phase III assures the protection of more than 42 miles of tributaries to the five Machias Lakes and the mainstem of the Machias River, a federally listed river for endangered Atlantic salmon. Together, Phases I, II and III, owned in fee or easement by Maine Dept. of Conservation, protect more than 60,000 acres of riparian lands, 252 miles of river or shore frontage, and include 83% of the upper Machias River watershed. Phase I and II were also supported by earlier Maine Atlantic Salmon Conservation Fund grants totaling $1.15 million. The Machias River Project supports the forest industry, ensures public access to popular recreational lands and benefits Atlantic salmon habitat. The Nature Conservancy is playing a pivotal role in fundraising, negotiating the acquisition, and in establishing an endowment to ensure effective long-term monitoring and management of the property. At least a dozen other partners - including several U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service programs, multiple state agencies, and non-government conservation groups, have been involved in the permanent protection of the Machias River corridor.

"Funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has been an important part of all three phases of the Machias River Project," said Mike Tetreault, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy in Maine, "but I can't overstate the importance of the technical support and guidance by the Gulf of Maine Coastal Program that has allowed us to identify the needs of wildlife species and plan these projects around them. That sort of public/private partnership means we are all using our resources most effectively."

A fish barrier inventory, also supported in part through the Maine Atlantic Salmon Conservation Fund and coordinated through the Dept. of Conservation -- Maine Forest Service, will identify and prioritize thousands of barriers that block diadromous fish passage in the Kennebec and Penobscot River watersheds. Barriers include undersized and degraded culverts at road crossings, and other impassable structures. "Once complete, the fish barrier inventory will help effectively target sites to restore connectivity in our rivers and streams," commented Chris Martin, a Senior Planner with Maine Forest Service. Project coordinators will share survey results and provide training and technical support for private landowners, conservation groups, municipalities, state and federal agencies, as well as the engineering departments and road crews responsible for maintenance. Equipped with new tools, landowners and communities will be able to repair and maintain their road networks while minimizing negative impacts to Atlantic salmon, other fish and aquatic resources.

"By funding habitat protection and restoration projects, supporting resource surveys and assessments, and providing practical tools to help communities and landowners tackle difficult resource issues, the Maine Atlantic Salmon Conservation Fund is making a visible difference," reflected Jed Wright, Senior Fish and Wildlife Biologist and Field Coordinator for the Maine Atlantic Salmon Conservation Fund. "This has all been possible because of the dedication and skill that conservation partners bring to the work, and the funding provided by Maine's congressional delegation."

The Maine Atlantic Salmon Conservation Fund was established through a special appropriation sponsored by Maine's Congressional delegation in October 2000. From its inception until now, the fund has provided $9 million and leveraged an additional $14.6 million to support more than 130 projects to promote recovery of Atlantic salmon. More than 81,368 acres of land adjacent to salmon spawning and rearing habitat has been permanently protected. Grants have promoted collaboration among federal and state agencies, industry, local watershed councils, and conservation groups, encouraging people to work together to maintain healthy watersheds needed for the survival of Atlantic salmon and other migratory fish. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Gulf of Maine Coastal Program jointly administer the program in partnership with advisory board members, including Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Maine State Planning Office (Land for Maine's Future Program), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, University of Maine-Machias, Wild Blueberry Commission, and local conservation groups.

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