Saving Our Treasured Spaces

NOAA’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program

Many of us continue to watch the natural landscapes and green spaces in our communities disappear. Perhaps it’s an office complex built where a forest once grew or a strip mall constructed in a former wetlands area.  

Resource-rich coastal areas and wetlands also face threats from uncontrolled development. Overuse and population sprawl are key factors.

Consider that:

Maquoit Bay.

Maquoit Bay.

High resolution (Credit: Trust for Public Land)

And, there’s more: In the eastern U.S. alone, coastal land development has contributed to 59,000 acres of wetland loss a year.

Why is watershed conservation so important?

Although many states and municipalities have plans and regulations in place to reduce the effect of development on natural areas, its rapid pace along the coast is causing a significant loss of marine habitats and wildlife — as well as the much-needed natural resources human life depends on.

Spending Some “Green” to Save Some Green

One way to slow development and conserve natural space is to buy land that is valued for its ecological resources, so it can be protected.

Maquoit Bay Conservation Land.

Maquoit Bay Conservation Land.

High resolution (Credit: Town of Brunswick, Maine)

Coastal areas also can be preserved with a conservation easement — a legal contract that keeps land in private ownership, but limits the types of activities that may take place on a property.

Because coastal lands are so limited in area and highly desired for development, they are expensive to purchase, and therefore, a challenge to acquire for preservation.

That’s where NOAA is playing a key role.

Through its Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program, NOAA has granted more than $200 million since 2002 to protect conservation lands in 27 coastal states. To date, more than 45,000 acres of coastal areas with exceptional ecological, historical, and recreational value — as well as natural beauty — have been protected with help from CELCP funding.

CELCP projects often bring together many conservation partners in a joint effort to purchase coastal properties, enabling our federal dollars to acquire more land.

Maquoit Bay.

Maquoit Bay.

High resolution (Credit: Town of Brunswick, Maine)

A Case Study in Saving Space: Maquoit Bay, Maine

One of the last undeveloped areas in Maquoit Bay in Brunswick, Maine, was in danger of being developed. It had already been designated as a priority conservation area, but the town needed financial help to protect the area.

NOAA’s CELCP was able to help: it awarded nearly $2 million to Brunswick in 2006–2007 to acquire and therefore, safeguard 168 acres of Maquoit Bay’s freshwater streams, mudflats, tidal marshes, and forests.

Additionally, a conservation easement over nearly 60 adjacent acres in Maquoit Bay, including more than a quarter-mile of bayfront property, was donated by a private landowner as a partial match for this federal award.

Both conservation actions nearly doubled Brunswick’s publically accessible shoreline. Today local residents and visitors alike enjoy more than a mile of trails for walking and cross-country skiing as well as canoe and kayak access to Maquoit and Casco Bays.

Preservation of Coastal Areas — A Presidential Priority

NOAA’s CELCP was recognized in the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 recently signed by President Barack Obama. This legislation authorizes $60 million to be given annually to CELCP to continue its mission to help state and local governments acquire significant and life-sustaining coastal lands that might otherwise be lost to development.

To learn more about CELCP, visit the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program Web site. NOAA logo.