Natural and Working Lands

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Download the Presentation Slides (PDF)

Meet the Working Group Members

About Natural and Working Lands

With forests covering more than 89 percent of our state, Maine is the most heavily forested state in the country. Our natural and working lands are the foundation for significant sectors of Maine’s economy, including agriculture, forestry and wood products, outdoor recreation and tourism. The vast majority of working and natural lands in Maine -- 93 percent -- are privately owned. For generations, these lands have provided good-paying jobs, food, wildlife habitat, and opportunities for recreation.

Watch the Natural and Working Lands strategies:

Forests, farmlands, and natural areas, including wetlands, also provide essential natural benefits such as drinking water protection, flood hazard prevention, and carbon storage. Maine’s working forests, natural lands, and agricultural lands are estimated to capture around 13 million metric tons of CO2e per year, an amount equal to 75 percent of Maine’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Today, Maine’s natural and working lands are threatened by climate change and unplanned development in rural areas. Temperature and precipitation changes will impact forest composition and the habitat and biodiversity of plant and animal species. There is an increasing risk of wildfires, while new pests, diseases, and invasive species threaten overall forest health and many types of crops. Increasing extreme storms cause erosion, soil loss, and water quality issues.

Loss of forest and farmland to development (currently estimated at approximately 10,000 acres lost per year) reduces the potential for carbon storage and the many additional benefits those working lands provide.

Proposed Strategies

Please note: the summaries below may not reflect the comprehensive details of each proposed strategy, please see the Draft Recommendations file or slides above for a more complete description. 

Protect and conserve working forests, farms, and natural lands: Establish a dedicated, sustained funding source to provide permanent protection for forest lands, farmlands, and areas of exceptional biodiversity via conservation easements and fee acquisition. Revise existing state and federal land conservation programs to include projects that store carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for climate change impacts.

Provide financial incentives and technical support: Innovative land management, improved infrastructure, and natural climate solutions that increase carbon storage, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, will help farmers, loggers, and landowners prepare for climate change impacts.

Promote the use of Maine’s value-added forest products: Develop and enhance marketing programs for climate-friendly bio-based wood products including Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and wood fiber insulation. Encourage the use of efficient modern wood heat and power technology that uses forest product waste from logging operations, paper and lumber mills.

Make investments to increase wildlife crossings and aquatic organism passage: Improve aquatic connectivity at private and publicly owned dams and roads with bridges and culverts that reduce flooding damage, support habitat functionality, and respond to sea level rise.

Strengthen Maine’s food systems: Make it so more food can be produced by Maine farmers and processed locally, distributed efficiently, and priced affordably.

Prioritize the retention of Maine’s valuable working and natural lands: Support comprehensive, accurate, and timely review of land and water resources and project permitting under environmental regulations to ensure smart development, shoreland protection, and appropriate renewable energy project placement.

Increase climate education related to forestry, agriculture and natural lands: This would be through public school curricula, consumer awareness, and landowner information.

Strengthen research, development, and monitoring of natural and working land practices: Establish the University of Maine as the coordinating hub for partnerships and research on forestry, agriculture, and natural land-related climate concerns in Maine, in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for climate change impacts.

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