This November I will be voting in favor of the $5 million bond to fund the Land for Maine’s Future program. Land for Maine’s Future helps conserve working farms, productive forestlands, commercial waterfronts, recreational areas and valuable wildlife habitat. The program also helps ensure public access to dozens of water bodies and hundreds of thousands of acres of forestland. These farms, woods and waters are the heartbeat of Maine’s natural resource-based economy.

My business and others like it benefit from projects funded by Land for Maine’s Future. The program helps to guarantee public access to Maine lands for hunting, hiking, fishing and many other uses, as well as ensuring that snowmobile trails in the Moosehead region and across the state remain open. Outdoor recreation and tourism is fundamental to our state, and every $1 invested in land conservation through the program returns an impressive $11 in natural goods and services to the Maine economy. It is critical to ensuring that guides, sporting goods stores, motels and restaurants that depend on public access to waters and lands can prosper.

In 2004 Land for Maine’s Future funds helped the state purchase 47,000 acres surrounding the headwaters of the St. John River and Seboomook Lake for enjoyment and use by the people of Maine and our visitors, forever. These state-owned lands, known as the Seboomook Unit, offer some of Maine’s premier waters for trout and salmon fishing, as well as opportunities for hiking, skiing, hunting, paddling, camping and wildlife viewing. Snowmobile trail ITS 112, which winds northeast to the North Branch of the Penobscot River and around Moosehead Lake, traverses the state-owned parcel.

Vast tracts of undeveloped lands are the calling card for the Maine North Woods and attract visitors every year from around the world to places like the Moosehead Lake region. Maintaining and improving public access to lands like the Seboomook Unit are a critical issue for small businesses that depend on the influx of recreation and tourism dollars into our communities.

An ongoing project on the north end of Moosehead Lake — the Moosehead-Seboomook Inholding Project — is an example of why sustaining the LMF bond is so important. Because of generational changes, the landowning family must sell an 81-acre parcel with two miles of undeveloped shoreline. The parcel, which is near the historic North East Carry, provides important habitat for adult brook trout and public opportunities for fishing, water access camping and picnicking. The landowners are interested in selling their property to the state Division of Parks and Public Lands at a bargain-sale price, to be added to the Seboomook Unit.

Adding the private inholding to the state-owned lands would secure permanent public access rights and improve recreational opportunities to the adjacent unit. This parcel could offer an important refuge from lake-shore winds for snowmobilers and ice fishermen recreating at the northern end of Moosehead. The Northern Forest Canoe Trail, a 740-mile route that links the waterways of New York, Vermont, Quebec, New Hampshire and Maine, has identified the parcel as being in an excellent location for a water access campsite. Unfortunately, the Land for Maine’s Future program has committed its dwindling available funds and cannot consider this project.

A vote in favor of the Land for Maine’s Future bond will help re-fund this program, so projects like the Moosehead-Seboomook Inholding can move forward. Creating new opportunities for year-round recreational use, as well as permanently securing traditional access points for fishing, paddling, camping and hunting are strategic investments in the future of our state and small businesses. Help keep the Land for Maine’s Future program and Maine businesses strong by voting in support of the land and water conservation on Nov. 6.

Amy Lane owns Gray Ghost Camps in Rockwood.