We are working to conserve more land. RRCT is working to conserve strategic parcels of land in the Royal River watershed, both on the river and its tributaries, and elsewhere in the local communities we serve. Our priorities for new conservation successes include trail connections, habitat corridors, farmland, water access points, and expansion of state and local parks and preserves.
We’re conserving more land to guarantee healthy communities for future generations. Without initiatives to conserve land, our communities may lose public access to some of the Royal River’s most special places. Growing communities require more open space, clean water, protected habitat, and protected farms. Today’s generation can act before it’s too late. We want children in our communities to grow up exploring the outdoors, and to develop a love and respect for our natural environment.
RRCT’s Land Acquisition Reserve Fund. RRCT established this reserve fund (rolling fund) with private charitable donations to build strong momentum to allow us to lean into land acquisition or conservation easement possibilities. Even as we raise new money, we are also spending from the fund each time we reach agreement with landowners on new conservation projects. Most donations aren’t credited toward a specific parcel, but rather contribute toward a pool funding any acquisition project when it emerges or ripens. Donations to this fund leverage landowner donations and other funds. Some donors prefer to fund specific parcels, and we can structure donations accordingly. Funds go toward land acquisition project budgets, following board votes on specific parcel budgets. By adopted board policy, RRCT sets aside a portion of each acquisition budget (roughly 10%) for long-term stewardship funds that we invest to generate income to care for our properties in perpetuity. If you are interested in a donation to this Land Acquisition Reserve Fund or a specific property or project, simply make a note with your donation, or contact RRCT Executive Director Alan Stearns with any questions or input.
The fund recognizes the many opportunities for conservation acquisitions as our communities grow and thrive. With a strong Land Acquisition Reserve Fund, we can seize these opportunities when they arise, and get a head-start on larger strategic campaigns for specific parcels.
We need your support today. Please support us by contributing generously to the RRCT Land Acquisition Reserve Fund. Today (June 2020) we have several active acquisition projects, all requiring Land Acquisition Reserve Fund donations to bring them to completion:
- In New Gloucester’s Lower Village, to conserve more than 180 acres under option unveiled on July 1, 2019. Working with Gray-New Gloucester Little League, our combined campaign budget exceeds $1M from many sources for land acquisition, trail construction, ball field construction, and more. See the campaign website for details.
- In Pownal, to conserve 57 acres off Upper Minot Road, added to existing RRCT ownership, to create the 75-acre Thoit’s Branch Headwaters Preserve. Donations to the Land Acquisition Reserve Fund will cover the $30,000 purchase price as well as due diligence and stewardship.
- In North Yarmouth. to conserve 35 acres off Lufkin Road, added to an existing RRCT conservation easement and powerline trails, to create a new 50-acre preserve. The land will be donated by a generous landowner; donations to the Land Acquisition Reserve Fund will cover due diligence and our $25,000 stewardship and trail construction budget.
- In Yarmouth and Freeport, working with Maine Coast Heritage Trust and Freeport Conservation Trust, to conserve two key parcels with frontage on the Cousins River marshes, all part of our joint Cousins River Watershed Initiative. Checks should be payable directly to Freeport Conservation Trust or Maine Coast Heritage Trust.
Not all of our projects are public due to quiet landowner and funder dialog. We are always interested in working quietly with landowners who seek to conserve their own land, or neighborhoods working on a comprehensive vision. We will soon announce plans for (or completion of) several active projects, while others remain quiet. These are projects we are advancing:
- To expand conserved corridors between Bradbury and Pineland, especially in Pownal.
- To conserve a shoreline parcel on the Royal in North Yarmouth, adjacent to an existing preserve.
- To secure additional shoreline habitat on the Royal River in New Gloucester, and to continue to expand the Intervale Preserve.
- To expand the Pisgah Hill Preserve in both Pownal and New Gloucester.
- To expand conservation land and habitat surrounding Durham’s Runaround Pond.
- To expand conservation and habitat adjacent to the Knight’s Pond Preserve, and to secure trail connections from North Yarmouth village to Knight’s Pond, working closely with the Town of North Yarmouth.
Various projects that we completed already in 2020 — and since 2015 — involve expansions of existing preserves, and protection of ponds at the headwaters of the Royal River and elsewhere:
- In February 2020 RRCT acquired two parcels totaling six acres on Meadow Brook adjacent to Maine DIFW’s Irving Thurston Wildlife Marsh off Woodman Road in New Gloucester, effectively expanding DIFW’s Wildlife Management Area.
- In October 2019 we closed on a 3-acre expansion of the Elmwood Trail corridor, part of the Bradbury-to-Pineland conservation and recreation matrix. Online maps are updated! The new conservation land gives us options to improve trail location, off-road parking, and traffic safety.
- In August 2019 we closed on an 28-acre expansion of the Intervale Preserve in New Gloucester, accepting the donation of seven remote marsh parcels. Online maps are updated! The expansion sets the stage for our larger project (above) in the Intervale and Lower Gloucester Village.
- In July 2019, working with the Town of Yarmouth, we helped create a new 50-acre Riverfront Woods Preserve by expanding the existing Hilda Barker Preserve on the Royal River, with habitat, shoreline, and public access benefits, by acquiring an adjacent parcel owned by members of the Dugas family.
- In March 2019, we acquired 11 acres of forest adjacent to the Chesley Meadows Preserve at Runaround Pond, expanding that preserve. Simultaneously, we acquired an 11 acre agricultural conservation easement on a pasture (we call this pasture “Old Crow Ranch II“) abutting the Chesley Meadows Preserve, supporting local agriculture while also providing a scenic buffer to the preserve.
- In December 2018, we accepted the donation of 40 acres in New Gloucester and Auburn, creating our new Big Falls Preserve.
- In July 2018, we closed on two more small parcels expanding New Gloucester’s Intervale Preserve, donated by a nearby landowner.
- In May 2018, we closed on a shoreline parcel in North Yarmouth that is now managed as part of the Knight’s Pond Preserve. We’ll continue to work with Town, CMP, and abutters to create a trail around the entire pond, and to explore options to connect Knight’s Pond’s trails to the village center. Our plan is to transfer ownership of this parcel to the Town of North Yarmouth.
- In late September 2017 we closed on efforts to conserve the 427-acre Waterhouse Farm in New Gloucester, with the Maine Farmland Trust, with an RRCT-held conservation easement.
Contact us for more information on these and other projects, or if you are interested in a conservation strategy for land you own or love. The entirety of our ownership — including recent closings above — is described on our Stewardship & Ownership page.
How we conserve land. RRCT works with private landowners, municipalities, and others who are interested in conserving land for perpetuity. Sometimes we acquire land. Sometimes we work with towns to acquire land for the town. Other times we acquire a conservation easement which allows the land to be privately farmed or privately managed for timber and other goals. Sometimes we raise money for these deeds, other times the conservation values are donated by generous landowners, developers, or others thanks to tax deductions and other incentives. Funding from towns or foundations is often important, and for every project we rely on small and large donations from people like you. Each conservation transaction is different, with different motivations, different natural values, and different financing. Many landowners have questions about tax benefits. The Land Trust Alliance has a good summary of federal tax incentives for conservation donations. Call us if we can help talk through other resources to guide you through tax planning.
What are our long-term land conservation plans? Royal River Conservation Trust (RRCT) actively works in all towns in the Royal River region. Our 2005 Royal River Conservation Plan guides the organization to focus its resources on conserving lands whose biological, recreational, historic, agricultural, and scenic values are critical to the functioning of this developing region. We have appended this plan to reflect changes in recent years, including our new focus on working farms, and major progress through various municipal and state conservation planning initiatives. The 2005 plan is largely consistent with more recent plans of municipalities, state agencies or other entities, with increasingly sophisticated online and data-oriented conservation priorities. Good examples of new planning tool that shape our work, and are consistent with our 2005 plan, include:
- The Nature Conservancy’s approach to climate change resilience. This tool provides an important climate change overlay to prioritize our acquisitions and stewardship, especially river and stream restoration and protection at Runaround Pond, Chandler Brook, and elsewhere. This map is an adaptation of The Nature Conservancy’s work, applied to the Royal River watershed. It illustrates why we prioritize work especially along Chandler Brook, expanding Bradbury Mountain State Park, at Runaround Pond, on the Cousins River, and more.
- MaineBPL’s Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) (strategic emphasis on suburban open space, trails, public access to water). SCORP emphasizes the need for public access to water, suburban walking trails, and other issues important to RRCT. SCORP also provides county-by-county data, which can be expanded to town-by-town analysis. For RRCT, we note the relative deficit of community open space in Durham and Androscoggin County as compared to the rest of the state. Only 2.89 percent of Androscoggin County’s land is conserved (lowest among all Maine counties), as compared to 18.9% statewide and 6.5% in Cumberland County. Only 0.83% of Durham’s land is conserved, even while Durham’s population is growing steadily. Durham has 1/20th acre of conserved land per resident. RRCT is working to conserve more land in Durham.
- MaineDIFW’s State Wildlife Action Plan (strategic emphasis on Casco Bay shoreline in Yarmouth and Freeport). Our watershed maps illustrate the state wildlife focus area in Casco Bay. The wildlife of Casco Bay in Yarmouth and Freeport benefits from clean water and healthy fisheries up and down the Royal and Cousins watersheds.
- New Comprehensive Plans or Open Space Plans in Durham, Yarmouth, North Yarmouth, and other towns in most cases drafted with input from the Royal River Conservation Trust.
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