Land conservation trusts around Middle Bay near Brunswick have received nearly $1 million for wetlands conservation from a grant awarded Friday by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The grant, which is funneled through the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, will be matched by nearly a half-million dollars in private, local donations, bringing the total wetlands conservation effort to $1.5 million, said Peter Greeno, director of development for the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust.
The grant funding will be used to protect more than 86 acres of wetlands on Middle Bay in Brunswick and Harpswell, Greeno said. The bay, located between Harpswell Neck and Mere Point, is an important wildlife habitat, he said.
The grant award comes almost simultaneously with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study, also released Friday, showing that more than 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands are lost annually across the country.
The nonprofit Middle Bay Wetlands Partnership in Brunswick – a collaboration among the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust and Maine Coast Heritage Land Trust, both in Brunswick, and Harpswell Heritage Land Trust – is an example of how local conservation groups can join forces to preserve the special inland, coastal and marine ecosystems in their geographical areas, Greeno said. The partnership has worked for nearly a year on the Middle Bay conservation venture and will continue to pursue further land conservation efforts, he said.
The wetlands acreage involved is considered important waterfowl and wading bird habitat and significant for shorebird feeding and roosting, Greeno said. It is home to shorebirds, bald eagles, blue mussels, quahogs, soft shell clams and horseshoe crabs, as well as a variety of coastal and wetland plants.
Additionally, the conservation projects aim to protect water quality, coastal marshes, mud flats, and eel grass beds of Middle Bay by ensuring that the wetlands ecosystem will continue to serve as a filter for water along that stretch of coastline, Greeno said. Keeping those waters clean, healthy and productive, he said, will benefit local fisheries and marine industries.
“There’s a local economic benefit that’s very important to the communities,” Greeno said.
Harpswell Heritage Land Trust will buy about 40 acres from the Lowell family off Harpswell Neck Road near the Harpswell-Brunswick town line. The largely forested property includes more than 1,600 feet of shoreline and conserves 26.5 acres of marine wetlands for public use.
The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust will acquire a conservation easement on nearly 20 acres of fields opening on the upper reaches of Middle Bay cove. The Maine Coast Heritage Trust is working to conserve an additional 28 acres, adjacent to the other properties.
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