The Goals of MCPI
With their shared vision in mind, the many partners of the MCPI Coalition created the Strategic Conservation Framework that oulines three shared goals to be acheived thorough collective efforts
Goal 1: Create a viable network of conserved land that protects Maine’s priority coastal habitats, recreational and working access, and scenic and cultural features;
Goal 2: Help land trusts acquire the professional and technical resources needed to proactively protect priority lands and attend to long-term stewardship needs; and
Goal 3: Build strong public support and increased funding for coastal conservation.
With the MCPI’s function defined, the Coalition’s attention turned to form. The challenge was to find a structure and funding that married the need for the far-reaching vision with the realities of stretched schedules and wallets. The initial MCPI project team worked with the Coalition to select a leadership group that represents the diverse interests of the coast. What emerged is a 20-member steering committee that acts as the decision-making body for the Coalition, headed by a volunteer chair from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Gulf of Maine Coastal Program. For the nitty-gritty work, the steering committee knew early on that it needed a mix of volunteer workgroups, new grant funds, leveraging of existing efforts and partnerships, and individual agency and organization investment. A project budget of $1.5 million was created to support the project through its initial 2007 goals, and fundraising began with a lead commitment of $748,000 from NOAA.
From the very start the Coalition emphasized strategic conservation to ensure the best return on investment of conservation funds and efforts. To that end the Strategic Conservation Framework points to placing at the fingertips of the land trusts robust information and tools for setting local and regional conservation priorities.
First up were a set of efforts creating conservation data at coastwide scale. After assessing existing information about the lands that best define the character of coastal Maine, the Coalition members selected three types of data to make whole and readily available: habitat, points of access to the coast, and scenic/cultural features.
As a result, in early 2006 three data development projects were launched.
- The multi-agency collaborative, Beginning with Habitat has spent a year identifying the prime habitat lands across the coast.
- At the same time the first-ever mapping of all commercial and recreational access to the coast was begun by the Island Institute—an ambitious project that combats the quiet, undocumented loss of public connection and access to Maine’s coastal waters.
- The Maine State Planning Office completes the trio with their work to develop and pilot a methodology communities can use to select their most defining scenic and cultural features. When all three projects are complete, the conservation priorities that emerge from each data set will be conveyed on a Coastal Reference Map—a tool that creates a new, broader viewing lens and context for a coastwide, viable network of conserved lands.
The next step is helping Maine land trusts use this information effectively in their communities. This is being accomplished through the building of a strategic conservation planning curriculum this year that will deliver through training sessions the best practices of strategic conservation, effective model processes, and mentoring support to select land trusts.
Given the many trusts that are working in neighboring and sometimes overlapping coastal enclaves, collaboration in strategic conservation planning is key. In this vein, MCPI funds were targeted to help launch--through the work of the Nature Conservancy , Maine Coast Heritage Trust, and the Maine Land Trust Network GIS Council-- a conserved lands database for GIS mapping that sets standards for how the myriad of available conservation data layers are organized, making information sharing easier, more professional, and sustainable.
A trip along Maine’s coastal Route 1 shows landscapes marked with yawning conservation need. While the land trusts driving to meet this need are large in number, they are short on human resources —of the nearly 50 coastal trusts, only 10% have two or more staff, and 60% have no full time staff, with volunteers stretched thin. Given this, the foundation to MCPI is helping these groups reach their full potential.
Capacity Building Grants and Services
MCPI has created two new pockets of funding for organizational capacity building and increasing implementation of the revised land trust standards and practices, to totaling $330,000.
- One program focuses two-year competitive grants of up to $60,000 with technical assistance packages to land trusts for significantly expanding their professional staff, programs, and or collaboration. These grants are targeted for those organizations standing at the point of transformation into leading, professional land trusts. Learn more about the land trusts funded.
- A separate program focuses $80,000 technical support on discrete capacity building projects such as developing organizational and strategic conservation plans, enhancing their boards, building fundraising skills, and strengthening easement stewardship and land management practices. Learn more.
GIS Services and Support
Other capacity gaps identified by the Coalition were mapping services and savvy. Starting with a GIS needs assessment in 2005, a grants program then was designed to increase broadly GIS usage and capacity within the coastal land trust community. Grants totaling nearly $70,000 were awarded to three organizations that will serve as GIS Resource Centers across the coast. These Centers will be using the funds to establish and upgrade their GIS capability, enabling them to provide to the land trusts in their service area training, mapping services, and access to equipment. In addition to the grants, MCPI also awarded six copies of Arc View software to four organizations. .
Permanence of Conserved Lands
One final source of need is found in the stewardship of protected lands. MCPI also provided financial and other support to strengthen Maine’s Conserved Lands Registry, coordinated by Maine Coast Heritage Trust, to help local land trusts collect and access the data they need for long-term responsible easement and fee land stewardship and defense. Underlying this registry and all these grant efforts is the theme of collaboration—each effort designed to build strength and efficiency from numbers.
Broadening and deepening the base of conservation support is the third goal of MCPI. On this topic, the Coalition is strengthening three support beams: messaging, funding and partnerships.
Coastal Choices Communication Toolkit
The coast, while a priority in the mind for summer vacationers, faces stiff competition to be a priority for conservation funds in the private and public sectors for its protection. To this end, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and Cross Current Productions are helping to tune and magnify the collective voice of the Coalition. With the input of a MCPI workgroup, they have developed a communication plan and tools aimed at deepening the understanding of coastal conservation in the minds of coastal decision-makers in government, business, and other organizations. To view the award winning set of films created as part of this communications plan, jump to the Coastal Choice project pages. View and dowload a poster that showcases the people and projects that are together protecting Maine's worldclass coastal resources.
Advancing Conservation Funding
Concurrently, a separate work group has mapped out a fundraising strategy that will detail how the Coalition will strengthen its ability to use their collective voice to advance conservation funding.
The Coalition recognized that the support gained from partnership seems the only salve for the heated pressure of the many users and uses of coastal resources. Like nowhere else in the state, the expense and desirability of coastal real estate is placing upfront the need for creativity and collaboration for conservation. The Initiative, therefore, places a premium on encouraging and sharing lessons coastwide from innovative partnerships for conservation. For example, MCPI funding is supporting the work of the Mt. Agamenticus to the Sea Conservation Initiative in providing tools and technical assistance to help towns realize their full potential as conservation leaders. Further down the coast, funding is also invested in the Mid-Coast Council for Business Development & Planning in their work with twelve towns and the local Mid-Coast land trusts to implement a strategic regional open space plan that is based on a thorough, community-based visioning project.