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Ecological Reserve System
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Ecological Reserves are lands specifically set aside to protect and monitor the State of Maine's natural ecosystems. These lands are managed by the Division of Parks and Public Lands, and the Maine Natural Areas Program oversees the long-term ecological monitoring plan. As of 2013, Maine has designated more than 90,000 acres of Ecological Reserves on 17 public land units. The original designation was enabled by an act of the Maine Legislature in 2000. As specified in the legislation, the purposes of the Reserves are (Public Laws of Maine, Second Regular Session of the 119th, Chapter 592):
- "to maintain one or more natural community types or native ecosystem types in a natural condition and range of variation and contribute to the protection of Maine's biological diversity,”
- "as a benchmark against which biological and environmental change may be measured, as a site for ongoing scientific research, long-term environmental monitoring and education," and
- "to protect sufficient habitat for those species whose habitat needs are unlikely to be met on lands managed for other purposes".
Reserves were designated following a multi-year inventory and assessment project coordinated by the Maine Forest Biodiversity Project, with staff assistance from The Nature Conservancy, the Maine Natural Areas Program, and the Division of Parks and Public Lands. They range in size from 775 acres at Wassataquoik Stream in T3 R7 WELS to over 11,000 acres at Nahmakanta in Rainbow Twp.
In addition to the ecological reserves on state lands, many other public and private organizations (e.g., The Nature Conservancy, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service) are managing a subset of lands with similar ecological goals.