By Linda Frechette, publicist for Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund
Not everyone plays the lottery, but most of us have fantasized at one time or another about how we might spend a Powerball Jackpot or a winning Megabucks ticket. Even those who buy lottery tickets know that the odds of winning big are slim.
But for nearly 10 years, one instant scratch ticket selling for only a dollar has quietly and consistently generated a strong return — pumping over $11 million into more than 400 outdoor recreation, wildlife and conservation projects all over the state.
Many Mainers are not aware of the Outdoor Heritage instant lottery ticket, or that the state even has a dedicated ticket with proceeds benefiting our state’s vast natural resources. Revenue from all other state lottery tickets are directed to the General Fund.
Maine is one of only three states to dedicate a portion of lottery proceeds to conservation program.
The ‘Outdoor Heritage’ lottery ticket was proposed to the Legislature in 1995 by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) and the Maine Audubon Society, which joined efforts to develop a new funding source. Due to strong public support, the program was approved without a referendum. Since that time, many towns and municipalities from Fort Kent to Kittery have received grants from the Outdoor Heritage program (see listing).
Municipalities and non-profit organizations can submit grant proposals twice a year in partnership with one of the state’s several natural resource agencies. By law, grants are awarded in four categories: Fisheries and Wildlife, and Habitat Conservation; Acquisition and Management of Public Lands; Endangered and Threatened Species Conservation; and Natural Resources Law Enforcement.
Outdoor Heritage grants awarded under Fisheries and Wildlife, and Habitat Conservation have included:
• $10,000 to restore the degraded stream and viewing area around the Damariscotta Mills Alewife run. Project partners included Damariscotta River Association, Maine Rivers, Damariscotta Lake Watershed Association, towns of Nobleboro and Newcastle, National Park Service, and Maine Department of Marine Resources.
• $16,000 to construct a water control structure on Chase’s Mill Stream in East Machias to protect critical habitats for Atlantic salmon, loons and small mouth bass. Project partners were the town of East Machias, Washington County SWCD, Atlantic Salmon Commission, and Connors Bros. Aquaculture.
A second grant category for acquisition and management of public lands helped the town of Portage Lake, which was experiencing a problem with Canadian geese at the public beach. A grant of $21,775 helped to construct a natural buffer to alleviate the problem.
Several trail projects also funded under this category have included:
• $8,556 to help acquire Devils Head, a 315-acre coastal headland in Calais, for public recreation and wildlife conservation.
• $29,250 to acquire 1.5 miles of abandoned railroad in Caribou, linking the state-owned Aroostook Valley rail bed with the city’s trail system.
• $59, 976 to help acquire and develop for multi-use recreation the Saint John Valley Heritage Trail along the abandoned 16 mile St. Francis branch of the B&A Railroad.
• $30,000 to help complete construction of the Grafton Loop backcountry hiking trail on public and private land.
• $51,000 to extend the Presumpscot Falls Trail network in Portland.
Under Endangered and Threatened Species Conservation projects, the town of Falmouth partnered with the Maine Audubon Society and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for a grant of $10,000 to identify and prioritize vernal pools. The grant included working with landowners on long-term protection of vernal pools, which in turn support many endangered and critical species.
The town of Fryeburg used a natural resources law enforcement grant of $16,953 to purchase an airboat for increased patrolling and law enforcement on the Saco River, where public safety was becoming an issue. In Greenville, the town partnered with the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department and Greenville Hospital for an Outdoor Heritage grant of $56,977 to purchase a patrol/search & rescue boat for use on Moosehead Lake.
Grants have also been awarded to several towns and partnering organizations to help purchase ATV’s for trail enforcement and educational efforts in Fort Kent, Presque isle, Washburn, Jay, and Newport.
In addition to the added benefits of the Outdoor Heritage instant lottery ticket, the odds of winning are the same 1 to 4 odds as all other instant tickets, and each ticket offers up to $5,000 in instant winnings. Outdoor Heritage instant tickets are available at most convenience stores and outlets where lottery tickets are sold. Ticket themes change roughly twice a year, but all tickets say “Proceeds Benefit Wildlife and Conservation.”
The next deadline for Outdoor Heritage grant proposals is March 1, 2006. To learn more about how to apply for a grant, call 623-2355 or visit the website at www.maine.gov/ifw/outdoorheritage.
2006 will mark the 10th Anniversary of the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, which is supported solely by proceeds from the Outdoor Heritage Instant Lottery Ticket.