The success of the Land for Maine’s Future Program has always been linked to its ability to address a wide array of threats to Maine’s pristine natural environment – and to the long-term vitality of the natural resource base that is so essential to our economy.

These threats – including financial pressures on Maine’s farms, forests and working waterfronts, the loss of public access to the land, and the health of the state’s diverse wildlife habitats – continue to confront us today. Therefore, the recent decision of the Land for Maine’s Future Board to initiate a new round of strategic investments in land conservation could not have come at a better time.

Any individual or business who enjoys or benefits from Maine’s great outdoors should be thrilled with this good news.

For the past 25 years, Land for Maine’s Future has provided a strong economic boost to communities throughout Maine, returning $11 for every $1 dollar spent. Through the conservation of more than 35 working farms, more than 250,000 acres of productive forestland and nearly two dozen commercial fishing access sites, the program has strengthened three of the state’s most important economic sectors.

The program has also greatly benefited Maine’s world-class tourism industry and associated businesses – by preserving wildlife habitats and unique natural features, and by securing access for the public to enjoy these special places.

Since voters established Land for Maine’s Future in 1987, the program has completed close to 200 conservation and recreation projects, highlighted by iconic locations such as Mount Kineo, Grand Lake Stream, Tumbledown Mountain and the Cutler Coast.

Recent successes have improved the Appalachian Trail near Crocker Mountain, protected a vital link for snowmobilers near Sebois Lake and increased public access to the Kennebec Estuary for hunters and birdwatchers alike.

These and other Land for Maine’s Future projects that have been completed over the past 2½ decades have succeeded in large part because the program is designed to be inclusive.

As part of its process, Land for Maine’s Future spawns diverse partnerships, often including local sporting groups, towns, businesses, land trusts, state agencies and many others. Fostering the creativity and problem-solving skills of Maine citizens, the program empowers these partnerships to not only strengthen their respective communities, but also to inspire others to do the same.

The Land for Maine’s Future Board, made up of public officials and private citizens appointed by the governor, reviews proposals from Maine residents, municipalities, agencies and land trusts before deciding which projects will provide the greatest public benefit. Before the state commits funds, each proposal goes through a rigorous process to ensure Maine voters’ expectations are met both in terms of quality and affordability.

At its recent meeting, following a thorough review of existing guidelines, the Land for Maine’s Future Board further refined and improved the program. The board then voted to initiate a new round of proposals – for the first time since 2010.

With more than $10 million available, Land for Maine’s Future is well positioned to target key investments that will bolster tourism-related businesses and the state’s traditional natural resource-based economy, while improving the quality of life for all Mainers. We applaud this important step.

The land conservation and business communities look forward to working with the Land for Maine’s Future Board and staff, state agencies, municipalities and other partners as the next installment of conservation projects is considered. Building upon the program’s traditions, in addition to a growing emphasis on securing economic benefits and helping to restore deer populations in northern Maine, the project proposal process has already begun in earnest.

When the application deadline of March 28 arrives, Land for Maine’s Future board members and staff will face a wide array of proposals from which to choose. In the months that follow, the cream of the crop will rise and come July a new slate of Land for Maine’s Future finalists will be announced.

As longtime proponents of the program, we are grateful to you, the voters of Maine, for the strong support you provide each time Land for Maine’s Future is on the ballot. Together, we have forever conserved a great deal of what makes the Pine Tree State such a special place to live, work and raise a family.

With your continued support we can ensure this new round of projects maintains and enhances that tradition for the future of Maine.

— Special to the Telegram