, Volume 45, Issue 5, pp 1076-1095
Date: 06 Apr 2010

An Assessment of Land Conservation Patterns in Maine Based on Spatial Analysis of Ecological and Socioeconomic Indicators

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Abstract

Given the nature of modern conservation acquisitions, which often result from gifts and opportunistic purchases of full or partial property rights, there is a risk that the resulting mosaic of conserved resources may not represent a coherent set of public values and benefits. With different public and private entities engaged in land conservation, one would further expect that each organization would apply separate goals and criteria to the selection and acquisition of its conservation portfolio. This set of circumstances raises an important question: what is the aggregate outcome of this land conservation process? Retrospective assessments provide a means of reviewing cumulative historical decisions and elucidating lessons for improving future conservation strategies. This study used GIS-based spatial analysis to examine the relationships of private and public conservation lands in Maine to a variety of landscape metrics in order to determine the degree to which these lands represent core ecological and socioeconomic values that are meaningful to a wide cross-section of citizens. Results revealed that the gains of past conservation efforts in Maine are counter-balanced to some extent by apparent gaps in the existing fabric of conservation holdings. Conservation lands capture a representative sample of diverse habitat, provide a large measure of protection for multiple conservation values and indicators, and offer an unusual mix of outdoor recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike. Yet, the majority of parcels are relatively small and isolated, and thus do not provide contiguous habitat blocks that offset ongoing processes of landscape fragmentation. Furthermore, the majority of area associated with many of the ecological metrics examined in this report is located outside the boundaries of current conservation holdings. The under-represented metrics identified in this investigation can be viewed as potential targets for new strategic conservation initiatives.