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Lower Kennebec River Estuary

Lower Kennebec River Estuary

Guidelines for Use of LMF Properties

Walking/Hiking Wildlife Observation/Study Fishing Hunting/Trapping Clamming/Worming 

Project Description

The Lower Kennebec River Estuary (including Merrymeeting Bay) is the largest tidal estuary on the Eastern Seaboard north of Chesapeake Bay. The lower reaches of this large embayment have extensive salt marsh, a rare habitat in Maine that offers valuable foraging, nesting, and wintering habitat for thousands of wading birds, shorebirds and migrating waterfowl. Boaters and birdwatchers can often see black ducks, mallards, pintail, Canada geese, snow geese, teal, mergansers, scoters, goldeneye, wood duck, ring-necked duck, common eiders, bufflehead and oldsquaw.

With the removal of the Edwards Dam in Augusta and improvements in water quality, the lower Kennebec River may start to support more abundant populations of striped bass, Atlantic salmon, Atlantic sturgeon, alewife, shad, rainbow smelt and the endangered short-nosed sturgeon. The recovery of the river’s historic wildlife value will depend in large measure on land protection in the area. Burgeoning development along the river’s shores (like the large-scale subdivisions that have gone in along the Back and Little rivers) generates runoff pollution, fragments and destroys upland habitat, and often blocks traditional access to the marshes for hunting, fishing and clamming.

Since 1992, the Maine Wetlands Protection Coalition (an alliance of federal, state and private conservation entities) has made this region a priority, leveraging $3.7 million in federal funds and $5.6 million through other sources to permanently protect more than 6,300 acres of wetlands and associated upland through fee and easement acquisition. Coalition members include the Land for Maine’s Future Program, Phippsburg Land Trust, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Gulf of Maine Program, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Ducks Unlimited, Inc., Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, The Nature Conservancy (Maine Chapter), Lower Kennebec Regional Land Trust, and Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife. In addition to supporting the broader Coalition effort, the LMF Program funded acquisition of a 168-acre parcel along the Back River and has approved funds to acquire five smaller parcels along the estuary.