A century from now the United States could be made up of swaths of land serving as travel corridors for deer, rabbits and waterfowl. And these sanctuaries could be made up of town parks, private properties, country clubs and college campuses.

This is part of Ken Elowe’s vision and why he chose to leave the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife after 22 years, 15 of those as the head biologist who built a national model for conservation.

Next month Elowe will take over as the regional leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s landscape conservation program, which will use a new approach nationally. Elowe has used that approach in Maine since 1995.

The service’s leaders say he is best suited to take charge of this effort to protect fish and wildlife on a grand scale.

“Ken, even in his capacity for the state of Maine, was the only state leader who was on our national team. Yes, he has been leading this effort in his position for some years,” said Marci Caplis, the service’s deputy assistant regional director for external affairs in Hadley, Mass.

“The hope is that we will be able to offer more protection for more species with limited resources by partnering with states, nonprofits and academia. It is a very important position that Ken is moving into. And he has been using this approach for many years. He seems to be the perfect fit.”

Landscape conservation has been used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for just three years. However, in 1995 Elowe created the Beginning with Habitat program that conserves landscape on a regional scale.

It operates in a way towns and communities can happily live with and it is this communal effort Elowe is most proud of here.

“This is so daunting, when you think about conserving landscape functionally for wildlife, and taking on something you probably won’t see achieved in your lifetime. But it’s the right direction to go,” Elowe said. “We can’t buy enough land to preserve it functionally for fish and wildlife. You can only put so many national parks on the landscape.”

Landscape conservation includes tax breaks and grants that help private landowners create wildlife habitat on their land. Ideally, it is not a financial burden on people, but a huge benefit to wildlife.

Elowe is quiet about his work in Maine, but outspoken on the national level about the need for landscape conservation.

In 2008 he was the keynote speaker at the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ national conference.

“At every venue I keep bringing it up, they decided to put it on the agenda,” he said with a laugh.

Elowe has worked on landscape conservation in the Middle East and for the European Union, but proudly calls Maine a leader in the nation and perhaps the world. He will be leaving the department but serving Maine at a higher level.

His work in the Northeast will be used as a pilot for the rest of the nation, with his experience in Maine as the blueprint.

“We’re quite far ahead, relative to other parts of the country,” Elowe said. “People in Maine live in towns that really want to do something special for our grandchildren. It’s very gratifying. It shows the people of Maine live here for a reason.”

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

[email protected]