A great blue heron wades near the shore of Branch Lake in Ellsworth in this 2017 file photo. Much of the land around the lake is conserved thanks to efforts by local organizations, the town of Ellsworth and funding from Land for Maine's Future. Credit: Aislinn Sarnacki / BDN

Five new projects as part of the Land for Maine’s Future program were announced on Wednesday by Gov. Janet Mills.

The project works to protect Maine’s working lands and wildlife habitats that preserve public access to lakes, rivers, scenic views and mountains, and has recently been reinvigorated with $40 million from the state’s biennial budget, according to Mills’ office.

The major goal of the newly approved projects is to preserve deer wintering habitats, and includes Buck’s Ledge Community Forest in Woodstock, the East Grand Lake Weston Conservation Easement near U.S. Route 1, Kennebago Headwaters in the Kennebago watershed, the Kennebec Highlands split between Vienna and New Sharon and the Caribou Stream Deer Wintering Area that encompasses the towns of Woodland and Washburn.

Buck’s Ledge Community Forest encompasses a 634-acre parcel and is home to nesting peregrine falcons, as well as a number of rare plants, and offers a number of hiking, rock climbing, hunting and other sporting opportunities.

The East Grand Lake project covers 4,363 acres and more than 21 miles of shoreline on East Grand Lake Deering/Longfellow Lake, Brackett Lake and Sucker Lake, as well as the headwaters of the St. Croix International Waterway, and offers a view of the scenic U.S. Highway Route 1.

Kennebago Headwaters is a 1,723 acre project that is part of the larger Kennebago Headwaters project, and the area is home to eastern brook trout that are attractive to anglers, as well as  moose, deer, Canada lynx, marten and waterfowl.

The Kennebec Highlands is an 813 acre project, and fills in the largest gap in the Kennebec Highlands Public Reserved Land tract. The area, located approximately 15 minutes from Augusta, has ample sporting opportunities and blueberry fields for commercial and recreational picking.

Caribou Stream, a 930 acre tract, is home to a deer wintering habitat that plays an important role in maintaining Maine’s deer population, and will be managed throughout the year to provide optimal resources for local deer populations. It will also be open for hiking and snowmobiling.

Lands for Maine’s Future  was established in 1987, when Maine citizens voted to fund $35 million to purchase lands of statewide importance. To date, the program has helped protect 62 water access sites, 41 farms and 9,755 acres of farmlands, 26 commercial working waterfront properties and thousands of acres of Maine’s waterfront and conservation and recreation lands.

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Leela Stockley

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley, her puppy Percy and staying active in the Maine outdoors.