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December 26, 2005

Coastal Land Protection Efforts Accelerate

Maine Coast Heritage Trust reports highlights of 2005 successes

Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) today reported that it is on track to complete nearly 30 land conservation projects in 2005, including the protection of 10 coastal islands.

“It has been another extraordinary year,” commented MCHT president Jay Espy, “and we even expect a few more project closings between now and January 1.” Espy pointed to the foresight of Maine’s coastal landowners and the generosity shown by supporters of land protection as the reason for success.

“Thanks to conservation minded landowners who recognize the true value of the Maine Coast, MCHT and its partners helped ensure continued public access to threatened coastal lands, the protection of important wildlife habitat, and preservation of scenic treasures that define the Maine Coast.” Over half of MCHT’s land protection projects in 2005 included a full or partial donation of land. Espy added, “We are deeply grateful to all of our members and supporters for their help in protecting these special places for future generations.”

Among the highlights of the Trust’s accomplishments this year were the acquisition of two more gem islands in the Merchant Row archipelago off Stonington; several projects conserving prime wetland and wildlife habitat in the Greater Pleasant Bay region along the Downeast Coast; a partnership with the Mount Desert Water District to conserve traditional access to hiking trails linking to Acadia National Park; and adding to conserved lands on Matinicus Island and Vinalhaven.

Espy noted that rapidly escalating land values along the Maine coast, coupled with interest in Maine islands as seasonal residences (as highlighted in national stories in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times) make the Trust’s work more challenging. However there have been a number of encouraging signs of continued public and private support for land conservation work throughout Maine.

In November, voters overwhelmingly approved a $12 million Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) bond, with a majority of each Maine county supporting the program. MCHT was especially grateful for a $1 million challenge grant from The Kresge Foundation, paid in October in support of its Marshall Island land conservation project, a component of its Campaign for the Coast. The Kresge Foundation is an independent, private foundation created by personal gifts of Sebastian Kresge and focuses on building the capacity of organizations and expanding their base of support.

The Trust expects the need for land protection along the coast to accelerate in 2006 and will be working with local land trusts, landowners and agencies like LMF to conserve high priority properties.

Maine Coast Heritage Trust is a statewide land conservation organization dedicated to protecting land that is essential to the character of Maine, its coastline and islands in particular. Since 1970, more than 120,000 acres, and 255 entire coastal islands have been permanently protected. For more information, contact Richard Knox, Director of Communications and Public Policy 207-729-7366, or visit www.mcht.org.