Coastal Maine is a place like no other—rugged lands that twist and turn for more than 5,300 miles, making home to a strong tourist industry and a vibrant commercial fishing industry, and a rich array of wildlife refuges, parks and preserves. While it remains a stunningly unique corner of the country, coastal Maine does endure the common symptoms of sprawl. Resulting is a setting for a story that land trusts across the nation know too well: an extraordinary place pressured to become only ordinary. Maine, however, is also a state characterized by the motto, Dirigo, or “I lead.” True to this spirit, in 2004, conservation organizations banned together to form the Maine Coast Protection Initiative (MCPI), a landscape collaborative of seventy-member organizations and growing, together focused on increasing the pace and quality of conservation along the State’s coast.
Public and private organizations have recognized the treasure that is coastal Maine, establishing programs at the federal, state, and local levels for its protection. Despite impressive work to safeguard critical coastal resources, there grows an erosive sprawl across the landscape that is outstripping the capacity of the coastal conservation community. As a result, habitat for Maine’s coastal species is becoming fragmented; recreational and commercial access to the coast is being lost; and the unique scenic vistas and cultural resources of the region are disappearing. A study by Maine State Planning Office says the majority of the Maine coast will be classified as “suburban/urban” by 2050 if current trends continue unabated.
To address the compelling need and time-sensitive opportunities, the MCPI project team--the Land Trust Alliance, Maine State Planning Office, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, and National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration Coastal Services Center (NOAA)--brought 70-plus land trusts and coastal organizations together in 2004 to engage in a year-long planning process. These many partners then coalesced to form the MCPI Coalition.