Gulf of Maine Coastal Program
Northeast Region

News and announcements

2010 Archives

More than $5.1 million in national grants will fund six coastal wetlands projects in the northeast region

December 22, 2010

The projects will protect about 1,000 acres in Broad Dyke Creek in Delaware; Basin, Curtis, Long and Seal coves in Maine; Cohansey Bayshore in New Jersey; Great Marsh Estuary in Massachusetts; and Maquoit Bay in Maine.

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Coastal Program celebrates 25 years of coastal conservation

November 16, 2010

Read the story at the link below.

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Biologists lead dynamic cottontail recovery effort in Maine

Kelly Boland explains to a group of volunteers how creating shrublands can benefit many species including the New England cottontail
Introduction to shrub planting. Credit: USFWS

April 27, 2010

Project Coordinator:
Mao Lin

GOMCP is working with Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge to increase their outreach capacity for New England cottontail conservation, and to highlight some of the innovative and important on the ground projects in Maine led by the refuge, but in partnership with various other agencies and organizations. We recently submitted this article to the Service's online Fish and Wildlife Journal.

Wildlife biologists at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge are working with partners to reach out to the public about how they can help save the New England cottontail – the only native cottontail rabbit species in New England.

"We're working directly with landowners to help them figure out how they can manage their land in a bunny friendly way," according to Kelly Boland, Maine's New England cottontail restoration coordinator. Boland is a contractor for the Environmental Defense Fund based out of Rachel Carson refuge.

"In areas where rabbits are holding out, there are some landowners that can really make a difference by making shrubland habitat that rabbits need," Boland continued. "We work with local land trusts in these areas to coordinate workshops and land protection strategies."

Working in concert with land trusts and conservation groups builds their capacities to work with members, volunteers, and landowners to identify places to make or protect cottontail habitat, and to take steps towards restoring and managing it, Boland added.

But the partnership approach to outreach goes beyond knocking on doors and setting up workshops. "There's an education piece, too," Boland said. Recently, the refuge heard from a concerned public when a nine acre patch of trees was cut on refuge land to restore it to shrubland.

"We're trying to explain that making habitat sometimes means a noticeable change to the landscape," she added. Shrublands benefit a suite of other important species including grouse, woodcock, eastern towhee, brown thrasher, common yellowthroat, and eastern box turtle. "We want people to understand that we're not just managing for one species."

Refuge land cleared to create shrubland habitat
Refuge land cleared to create shrubland habitat.
Credit: USFWS

The refuge received a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Challenge Cost Share grant this year to produce a brochure about the importance of shrubland habitat, along with interpretative signs to help our visitors and neighbors understand shrubland management. Boland's work is made possible by a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant, under its Keystone Initiative for declining early successional wildlife species.

Boland keeps a full schedule of outreach and education activities. For example, she recently led a 'Lunch and Learn' with rabbit colleague Sue Bickford from the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve. Other plans are in the works, including a presentation and natural history talk for Maine Audubon, shrub planting as part of Endangered Species Day, and a workshop for forest landowners in coordination with Ken Canfield from the Maine Forest Service.

Boland occasionally works with area schools to get them involved in cottontail conservation and management. For example, she co-hosted a volunteer day with David Mallard from York Land Trust where they invited a local school group to the trust's Highland Farm to measure habitat. Working with local schools on cottontail projects, according to Boland, is great outreach because it connects kids with nature and gets the job done at the same time. Recently, Richard Johnston of Coastal Ridge Elementary School in York, ME contacted Boland to inform her that the school produced a play about life cycles at which they collected $100 in donations that they wanted to contribute to cottontail restoration.

Refuge volunteers helping to plant shrubs at Libby Field
Shrub planting at Rachel Carson NWR.
Credit: USFWS

Additional outreach and workshop opportunities come up on a regular basis, according to Boland, however she emphasizes that the most important activity is making shrubland before the cottontail disappears.

Once abundant throughout the northeast, the New England cottontail has declined dramatically over the last 50 years prompting its status as a candidate under the federal Endangered Species Act. Biologists estimate that there may be fewer than 300 individuals left in the state of Maine.

"Most people don't tolerate natural processes that historically created shrubland, like fire and beaver created floods," Boland said. "If we don't replace these natural processes, we will lose those critters that need shrublands to live, including the New England cottontail." Trends in land use and development and the succession of fields to forests indicate that the rabbit population will only continue to decline.

Biologists continue to fight these trends, however. Rachel Carson refuge is currently managing over 80 acres on refuge lands (Kelly Field, Libby Field, and Cutts Island) as a mix of regenerating old field, forest patch cuts, bunny dens, and shrub plantings, according to refuge biologist Kate O'Brien. "We're always looking for more opportunities to create shrubland habitat," she added. "We are aiming to make several large blocks of habitat so that we can create secure areas for the rabbits to thrive."

Refuge land cleared for shrublands
Kelly Field at Rachel Carson NWR.
Credit: USFWS

According to O'Brien, cottontail conservation at the refuge also involves growing native shrubs, lots of transplanting, and experimenting with methods to increase stem densities using dormant season burns and other techniques like girdling and seeding.

Rather than tackling each management project on their own, the refuge coordinates with the Maine New England Cottontail Working Group, which is a network of wildlife biologists and land managers from federal and state agencies and private organizations. The working group also includes researchers from University of New Hampshire who are conducting genetic studies to determine the population sizes and landscape barriers of New England cottontail throughout most of its range.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service, a participant in the working group, is funding a 70 acre restoration effort in the Town of Wells through its Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program. "Landowners don't need to try to manage for shrublands on their own," Boland said. "Incentive payments like the NRCS WHIP are available, and contractors can be used to get big jobs done."


Our Partners in New England Cottontail Conservation
American Forest Foundation
Environmental Defense Fund
Maine Audubon
Maine Department of Conservation
Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
Maine Forest Service
The Nature Conservancy
University of New Hampshire
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
USFWS Maine Field Office
USFWS New England Field Office
USFWS Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge
Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve
Wildlife Management Institute
York County Soil and Water Conservation District

New England Cottontail Links
USFWS New England Cottontail Information and Links
Environmental Defense Fund - NEC Habitat Management
University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension

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Six habitat protection projects funded in Maine

April 20, 2010

Project Coordinator:
Stewart Fefer

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded six Small NAWCA grants to conservation groups in Maine through the Small North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants program. The funds will be used to permanently protect high value habitat including salt marshes, freshwater wetlands, stream and riparian areas, and associated upland habitats and buffer areas.

“These projects will protect and restore some of Maine’s best wildlife habitats and benefit a very diverse set of high-priority species, including Atlantic Salmon, and migratory birds like American Black Duck, Roseate Terns, Least Bitterns, and Canada Warblers,” according to Mitch Hartley, USFWS Biologist and Assistant Coordinator for the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture.

In addition to permanently protecting important individual habitat parcels, each of the funded projects connects to larger landscape-scale conservation initiatives.

GOMCP supported all of these projects in one or more ways by creating detailed maps for each application; working with partners on parcels to calculate wetland acres, shore front, and stream length; and providing habitat packages from the Gulf of Maine Watershed Habitat Analysis. The maps that GOMCP provided depict conservation lands, a regional view of the project, state natural resources, national wetland inventory data, and other important features.

“We have been providing this type of technical assistance to our conservation partners in the Gulf of Maine for several years,” commented Stewart Fefer, project leader for GOMCP. In the last three years, GOMCP assisted with seven successful Small NAWCA proposals in 2008, five in 2007, and four in 2006. “By working together and utilizing the skills and resources of each organization, we have accomplished much more than any of us could have alone.”

The Service awarded a total of $395,000 to Maine this year. Five of the six 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.

Grants were awarded to Forest Society of Maine, Great Works Regional Land Trust, National Audubon Society, Pleasant River Wildlife Foundation, State of Maine Department of Marine Fisheries, and Western Foothills Land Trust; but the funds will benefit many other groups through partnerships.

This year’s successful Small NAWCA projects are summarized below.

Half-mile Pond and bluff in Amherst, Maine
Half-mile Pond and Bluff. Credit: FSM

Amherst Community Forest Project
($75,000 awarded, $107,500 non-federal match)

The Forest Society of Maine is working with the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands to purchase a conservation easement that permanently protects an ecologically significant in-holding in the 5,200 acre Amherst Community Forest. The in-holding, known as the Haynes Brook parcel, contains nearly 200-acres of highly rated wetlands and buffering uplands in the heart of the Community Forest. It includes the Forest’s most important emergent and scrub-shrub wetland complex and one of its three main stream/riparian corridors. This project is part of a larger landscape conservation initiative, the Lower Penobscot Forest Project, which aims to conserve 63,000 acres of unfragmented forest abutting and buffering Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. Combined, these conserved lands will form a connected landscape of wetlands, streams, riparian and upland buffers, and an array of forest types and age-classes critical to populations of hundreds of species of wildlife, many of which have been identified as having national or state priorities for conservation.

This project was completed as a partnership between Forest Society of Maine, Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, Town of Amherst, U.S. Forest Service Legacy Program, Land for Maine’s Future Program, MDIFW, Maine Natural Areas Program, The Nature Conservancy – Maine Chapter, and GOMCP.

Dennys River Corridor Conservation Project – Wheaton Property
($20k awarded, $45,800 non-federal match)

This project supports the acquisition of the Wheaton Property in Meddybemps, Maine by the State of Maine Department of Marine Resources Bureau of Sea Run Fisheries and Habitat (DMR). The 50.8 acre property includes 1,000 feet of frontage on the Dennys River and consists of uplands mixed with forested and shrub wetlands and beaver flowages. The habitats on the property support several sea run fish like alewife and Atlantic salmon, and birds including red-shouldered hawk, American woodcock, osprey, and bald eagle. The downstream boundary of the Wheaton property abuts DMR’s Atlantic Salmon Corridor, which includes a 1,100 acre parcel that has been permanently protected.  Habitat protection surrounding the Dennys River corridor is an ongoing effort involving numerous partners and is a goal of the Maine Atlantic Salmon Recovery Plan. Protecting upland and riparian habitat in the watershed helps protect water quality that fish rely on during various stages of their lifecycles.

“The Wheaton property will make an excellent addition to the Atlantic Salmon Corridor, while also providing important habitat for a variety of mammals, birds, amphibian and invertebrates. MDIFW enthusiastically offers its support for this project.”
– Rich Bard, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist, MDIFW

“Dennys River riparian habitats are threatened by conversion to residential development and forestland cutting which would impact the wetlands and riparian corridor and possibly stream quality that would impact the habitat of endangered salmon. Through the work of the Downeast Coastal Conservancy, working with the landowner, a rare opportunity to protect another piece of the Dennys River corridor is possible.”
– Stewart I. Fefer, Project Leader, GOMCP

This project was completed as a partnership between State of Maine Department of Marine Resources Bureau of Sea Run Fisheries and Habitat, The Nature Conservancy – Maine Chapter, Downeast Coastal Conservancy, Dennys River Sportsman’s Club, Land For Maine’s Future Program, Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission, MDIFW, and GOMCP.

Looking south along Beaver Dam Creek in Berwick, Maine
Beaver Dam Creek. Credit: Wilfred Bryan

Grants Meadow III – Critical Upland and Stream Conservation in Southern Maine’s Beaver Dam Heath
($75,000 awarded, $264,467 non-federal match)

Grants Meadow III is the final phase of a five-year conservation effort that will protect approximately 33 acres of rich wetland habitat in Berwick Maine within Beaver Dam Heath. Beaver Dam Heath is a wetland mosaic of over 1,000 acres interspersed with upland forest recognized for its high habitat value and presence of rare plant and animal communities. The land will be owned by Great Works Regional Land Trust (GWRLT) in perpetuity and managed to preserve and or enhance their habitat value for threatened and endangered species. This project is adjacent to two recent conservation acquisitions by GWRLT and will enhance the conservation values of these 117 conserved acres.

This project was completed as a partnership between Great Works Regional Land Trust, Town of Berwick, private landowners, and GOMCP.

Mason Bay Coastal Wetlands & Waterbird Conservation Project – Bronfeld Parcel
($75,000 awarded, $86,000 non-federal match)

South shore of the Bronfeld Parcel in Jonesboro, Maine
South shore of Bronfeld Pparcel. Credit: PRWF

This project supports the acquisition and permanent protection of the Bronfeld Parcel in Jonesboro, Maine. The 63.2 acre parcel is located in Mason Bay, which offers exceptional habitat values for waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, bald eagles, and sea run fish. The bay nearly empties at low tide, offering a productive combination of salt marshes and expansive mudflats for internationally important migratory waterbirds. In winter, the shallow bay and freshwater creeks that feed it remain largely unfrozen, providing reliable and vital wintering habitat for black duck and other waterfowl. In addition, Bald eagles have nested in the vicinity of Mason Bay for at least the past eight years. The Bronfield parcel will be owned and permanently protected by the Pleasant River Wildlife Foundation. Nearby conservation parcels include 437.5 acres also owned by PRWF, and 14 acres owned by Downeast Coastal Conservancy.

“MCHT has worked for many years alongside PRWF and our other local, state, and federal partners in the region to protect some of the most significant lands along the downeast coast.”
– Patrick Watson, Project Manager, Maine Coast Heritage Trust

“We are impressed with the thoughtfulness and level of professionalism PRWF brings to our regional conservation efforts. Their work in the estuaries and coastal lands complements both DCC’s conservation program and a larger regional landscape-scale initiative being developed by the Downeast Land Trust Collaboration.”
– Tom Boutureira, Executive Director, Downeast Coastal Conservancy

This project was completed as a partnership between Pleasant River Wildlife Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, Inc., The Nature Conservancy – Maine Chapter, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Downeast Coastal Conservancy, and GOMCP.

Restoration and Enhancement of Waterbird Nesting Habitat on Maine Coastal Islands
($75,000 awarded, $75,000 non-federal match)

This project supports National Audubon Society Seabird Restoration Program’s work on habitat restoration and enhancement on Matinicus Rock, Eastern Egg Rock, Jenny Island, Outer Green Island, and Stone Island and also includes the acquisition of Eastern Island. The largest suite of marine birds in the northeast are found only on a set of 14 key islands that are managed by conservation partners to prevent or reduce undue interference by humans or predators during the nesting season. This project proposes to restore habitat on five of these islands, with a focus on terns because successful tern colonies (which exclude predatory gulls, crows, and raptors) benefit diverse populations of native birds including common eiders, alcids (e.g., puffins, guillemots, and murres) and other waterbirds. The system of managed sanctuaries offers geographically dispersed colony sites, similar to what existed in precolonial times, for terns to relocate should their initial breeding attempt fail due to predators, weather, or disease. In addition to preventing human disturbance and mitigating the effects of predators (mink, gulls, corvids, etc.), there is also a need for vegetation management. The acquisition of Eastern Island benefits seabirds in perpetuity and restoring and enhancing the other islands will benefit waterbirds for at least ten years.

“I have little doubt that the habitat enhancement work on these nationally significant seabird nesting islands will go a long way towards meeting my agency’s State Wildlife Action Plan priorities for these sea birds and waterfowl. As has been demonstrated in the past, a commitment to high standards of management by this dedicated team of partners will result in many worthwhile accomplishments.”
– Brad Allen, Bird Group Leader, MDIFW

This project was completed as a partnership between National Audubon Society, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, USFWS Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge, MDIFW, and GOMCP.

Watkins Crooked River Easement Acquisition
($75,000 awarded, $135,000 non-federal match)

Wetland habitat along Russell Brook in Harrison, Maine
Wetland habitat along Russell Brook. Credit: WFLT

This project supports the Western Foothills Land Trust (WFLT) in the purchase of a conservation easement in the Crooked River watershed that will protect 125 acres of wetland and wetland buffer surrounding Russell Brook in Harrison, Maine. The easement protects a critical reach of the Crooked River watershed valued for its forest, grassland, and freshwater wetland habitat that is important for wading birds, waterfowl, migratory birds, and fish. The Crooked River is the only spawning ground for Sebago Lake’s landlocked Atlantic salmon. In addition, about 40 percent of the surface water inflow to Sebago Lake, the drinking water source for more than 200,000 people in Greater Portland, comes from the Crooked River. The 125 acre Watkins easement was matched, in part, by a 350 acre easement donated in 2007 by private landowners. Acquiring the Watkins property easement is the first phase of a project that will eventually protect 690 acres of the Crooked River watershed. In addition, the New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF) anticipates that nearby lands and lands abutting the Watkins easement will come into NEFF ownership in the near future, creating a substantial contiguous conservation area of nearly 1,200 acres. The Watkins property will continue to be managed by the landowners, but the easement will be held and monitored by WFLT.

“Our decision to pledge funds in the region reflects our appreciation of the collaborative efforts by local land trusts, working in partnership with the Portland Water District, to link land conservation and protection of water quality.”
– Curtis C. Bohlen, Executive Director, CBEP

This project was completed as a partnership between Western Foothills Land Trust, Portland Water District, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, MDIFW, Integrated Forestry Management, New England Forestry Foundation, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, private landowners, and GOMCP.


The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) 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).

For more information on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant programs in Maine for habitat protection and restoration, contact Stewart Fefer at 207-781-8364 or visit the grants page on our website.

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Guide to pollinator biology and habitat available from NRCS

Cover page of the new NRCS pollinator guide, New England Biology Technical Note, April 2009
NRCS pollinator guide. Credit: NRCS

March 24, 2010

Project Coordinator:
Sandra Lary
207-781-8364 x19

The New Hampshire U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservatoin Service (USDA NRCS) recently released a "New England Biology Technical Note" (PDF 3.7 MB) with information on how to plan for, protect, and create habitat for pollinators in agricultural settings.

Publication of the Technical Note was a joint effort of the Xerces Society, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, and the Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island NRCS state offices.

The Gulf of Maine Coastal Program works to support the conservation and restoration of the habitats and species of the Gulf of Maine.


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Fish passage restored to Blackman Stream

Blackman Stream fishway. The fishway was constructed by excavating bedrock adjacent to the left abutment of the historic dam and creating a roughened channel. The upstream end was designed to accommodate changes in water surface elevations. A gate at the top will be used to control flows.
Blackman Stream fishway. Credit: USFWS

January 28, 2010

Project Coordinator:
Jed Wright

GOMCP worked with partners to complete construction of a fishway on Blackman Stream in Bradley, Maine (map, JPG 510 KB). The project reconnects Chemo Pond and Blackman Stream to the Penobscot River and allows alewives and American eel access to upstream pond and stream habitat. At 1,223 acres, Chemo Pond has the ability to restore a run of 270,000 alewives. A run of this size could pour over 100 million juvenile alewives into the main stem of the Penobscot River for the benefit of Atlantic salmon and the entire Penobscot ecosystem.

Alewives historically used Chemo Pond for spawning, but have not been able to reach it since the construction of several dams on Blackman Stream in the late 1700's. The historic Leonard's Mills Logging Museum Dam represented the only impassable structure on Blackman Stream below Chemo Pond. GOMCP and our partners recognized the importance of working cooperatively with the museum to balance conservation priorities with historic preservation. This unique partnership produced a fishway designed to fit in with the historic character of the site that restores access for fish to Chemo Pond and the Penobscot watershed while providing an educational centerpiece for fish passage restoration. A trail, two viewing bridges, and a kiosk will be constructed as part of the project and will contribute to the educational experience of visitors to the museum.

In addition to alewives and American eel, sea-run trout may also benefit from the project. Atlantic salmon will benefit indirectly from the alewife restoration since alewives serve as a prey buffer during multiple phases of their life cycle, and they also bring marine-derived nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous and carbon) into the watershed. These nutrients can enhance the diversity and abundance of insects and other life in the benthic community which in turn could benefit juvenile classes of salmon in the river. The project is linked to the larger Penobscot River Restoration Project which is in the process of removing three significant barriers on the river system. The Gulf of Maine distinct population segment of Atlantic salmon is listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The project was made possible through a partnership with the Maine Council of the Atlantic Salmon Federation and the Maine Forest and Logging Museum along with support from the Maine Department of Marine Resources, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Penobscot Indian Nation, Penobscot River Restoration Trust, Maine Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, and The Nature Conservancy. GOMCP provided funding and assistance with planning, permitting, design, and construction of the fishway.

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Last updated: February 28, 2020

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