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 Maine Coast Heritage Trust has a comprehensive online publication for landowners describing all of the various approaches to land conservation, including tax incentives. The national Land Trust Alliance also 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. In 2021 we appended the plan with a “co-occurrence” model and map, helping us quickly identify geographic areas in the watershed that the highest potential (multiple occurring factors) for land conservation. The 2005 plan with its 2021 amendments 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 other planning tools that shape our work 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.
- Regional recreational initiatives, including recent dialog on proposed “rail trails” provide exciting context.
- River restoration initiatives, including both stream connectivity and dam removal efforts.
- 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, New Gloucester, Pownal, and other towns in most cases drafted with input from the Royal River Conservation Trust.