Protecting the Royal River Watershed
Royal River Conservation Trust works with private landowners, municipalities, and others who are interested in conserving land for perpetuity. Every conservation project is different but in general we:
- Acquire land through donation or purchase
- Utilize conservation easements or other legal agreements for landowners interested in retaining ownership while conserving their land in perpetuity
- Assist municipalities and other conservation partners with land conservation projects
- Steward RRCT owned-land through day-to-day maintenance and long-term management
- Collaborate with municipalities, conservation partners, or other groups to advance community projects such as increased river access, nature interpretation, and educational programming.
RRCT’s Conservation Imperatives
In 2022, RRCT released an updated Conservation Plan, replacing the previous plan drafted in 2005. Our revised Conservation Plan is intended to guide long-term watershed dialogue while increasing the pace of land conservation. Our Conservation Plan outlines five conservation imperatives for this moment in time in the Royal River watershed. These high-level strategies guide where RRCT focuses its attention and resources, for the benefit of the watershed’s plant, animal, and human communities.
Accelerate expansion & connection of resilient lands
We target lands that protect, expand, or connect conserved land, large blocks of habitat, or high-quality habitat. Our aim is to keep common species common, give our rare, threatened, and endangered species viable future habitat, and allow new species to successfully migrate to their new climate homes.
Elevate & conserve RRCT’s four-town hot-spot
In 2021, RRCT produced a model of the watershed that depicted where various conservation values were concentrated in the watershed. The area where Pownal, Durham, Auburn, and New Gloucester meet has some of the largest remaining habitat in Greater Portland and Southern Maine. It is our best opportunity for leaving future generations open space in the most populated area of Maine.
Protect ecological integrity & immersive, natural spaces for respite
Protecting land does not end after RRCT acquires land or places a conservation easement on a parcel. As an organization rooted in “conservation in perpetuity,” we must carefully pace the usage of our lands and protect immersive experiences for people and intact areas for plants and animals. Each RRCT property is managed based on the site-specific location, best available science, and community needs.
Secure welcoming access for all
RRCT is focusing on distributing land conservation more equitably in our watershed. Gray, Durham, and Auburn all have significantly less conserved land than other towns in our watershed. We seek to bring conservation closer to all people in and around our watershed. More matters than just the location of land. A person’s experience before and during a visit to our land should be welcoming and inclusive.
Restore & protect our waters
We advocate for the reestablishment of a sea-run Royal River. We support our partners in leading the effort and are focused on how we can protect headwaters and stream-side habitat upriver from Yarmouth’s two dams.
Learn about active and recent projects that align with our conservation imperatives.
The following challenges are described in more detail in our Conservation Plan. These four challenges interact and amplify one another, but also present opportunities for meaningful community conservation.
In New England, proximity to development is the strongest predictor of forest loss. The Royal River watershed is surrounded by or contains four of the ten largest Maine municipalities. These communities and others nearby are growing at some of the fastest rates in New England. Excluding several counties around Boston, out of 61 New England counties, Cumberland and York counties had the largest population percentage increase from 2010 to 2020. Large unfragmented habitat blocks are critical for maintaining viable natural communities and supporting resilient lands capable of retaining biodiversity. Past development has fragmented habitat across Southern Maine, but the Royal River watershed still has many large habitat blocks capable of functioning ecosystems today and in the future.
Analysts predict that the percentage of Mainers 65 and older will increase by 45% from 2018 to 2028. This translates to a decade where we expect an increase in the frequency of land ownership change, which could result in an acceleration of conservation, development, or some combination of the two in a competitive real estate market. We are also seeing more “posted” signs while demand soars for open spaces to recreate and seek respite in. When measuring open space, our watershed has several communities within and around it that are in the bottom 10% of all New England census tracts.
Invasive plants, pests, pathogens
RRCT has success managing invasives and eliminating or lessening their spread at our preserves. However, with a frequently disturbed complex landscape, no one organization can change the trajectory of invasive species. Because biodiversity loss is the primary negative result of invasive species, there is a heightened role for protecting lands and waters that are still native biodiversity strongholds.
The effects of climate change are already felt and will continue becoming more apparent by the end of the 21st century. Since 1895, Maine’s annual statewide temperature has increased by 3.2°F and we could see another increase of up to or over 10°F by the end of the century. Along with rising temperatures come many other changes such as rising seas and more frequent extreme weather events. Species distributions and diversity will be altered, causing cascading changes through our familiar ecosystems.
Call to Action
RRCT remains enthusiastic about the opportunities for meaningful community conservation that benefit local ecology and people. This is a unique moment in time, with our watershed containing some of the largest remaining forests and wetlands in Southern Maine, some of the largest and fastest growing populations in Maine, and community members who care deeply about the health of their natural environment and local communities.
Keep enjoying your local lands and waters, and share their importance with friends and your town government and state representatives.
Become a RRCT member or recommit yourself by supporting our Land Acquisition Fund.
Connect us with neighbors and friends who may be interested in conserving their land.
Or volunteer with our land trust. Reach out to us for volunteer opportunities and other ways to care for our local lands and waters.
RRCT’s Conservation Plan Resources
RRCT’s 2022 Conservation Plan is best viewed digitally or printed on 11×17 paper.
- 2022 Conservation Plan – high resolution
- 2022 Conservation Plan – lower resolution
- 2022 Conservation Plan – abridged version
Selected tables and maps (excerpts from the plan):
- RRCT’s co-occurrence model
- RRCT’s conservation progress
- Population growth in New England counties
- Lesser-served conservation communities in New England
- Greater Portland unfragmented habitat and community proximity to conserved lands
- Maine unfragmented habitat
- Yarmouth sea-level rise
- Impact of Yarmouth dam removal for sea-run fishery
- Mosaic of conserved lands, habitat, and trails from North Yarmouth to Portland
- Climate resilience in the Royal River watershed
Other Planning Resources
RRCT’s 2022 Conservation Plan builds on some of the best available local, state, and regional science and planning. Below are a few of these resources.
State and regional:
- Maine State Wildlife Action Plan (2015)
- Maine State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (2019)
- An Assessment of Accomplishments and Gaps in Maine Land Conservation (2021 draft)
- Environmental Justice and Nearby Open Space Access in New England
- Maine Won’t Wait – A Four-Year Plan for Climate Action (2020)
- The Nature Conservancy’s Climate Resilience Mapping
- North Yarmouth conserved lands (August 2022)
- Rail-trail concept – Royal River Greenbelt
- State of Casco Bay, 6th Edition (2021)
- Yarmouth dam removal efforts
- RRCT Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
- Recent municipal plans such as Gray’s Open Space Plan, New Gloucester’s Comprehensive Plan, and Pownal’s Comprehensive Plan