Gambling for Maine’s outdoor heritage

Gopher GoldThe Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund has provided over $18 million to more than 900 important wildlife, conservation, and outdoor recreation programs. All of that money comes from one instant lottery game. And I hope you are buying those lottery tickets!

MOHF might have been the best idea I ever had. Following a difficult legislative session one year, in which we once again failed to secure public funding for critically important wildlife programs, I was fishing at my camp on Sourdnahunk Lake when it occurred to me that we might be able to secure a new funding source that didn’t require legislative action. I can’t say for sure, but the fish must not have been biting that night!

I was working for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and the SAM Board embraced the idea. Maine Audubon quickly joined us as a full partner and we took a poll that found the public was most supportive of an instant lottery game to provide wildlife and conservation funding. SAM and Maine Audubon collected signatures to place our initiative on the ballot. But with the strong support of Governor Angus King and the Maine legislature, the initiative became one of only two citizen initiatives to be enacted directly by the legislature rather than sent to referendum. It was my privilege to serve on the MOHF Board for ten years until I was term limited off.

When the MOHF’s instant lottery game began, it was one of five $1 games. Today there are dozens and new games have been created for $5 and $10. So the money available to MOHF for grants has decreased, but remains critically important to many wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation projects.

Latest Grants

At the May 14th MOHF Board meeting, $365,970 was awarded. You can see the entire list of projects that received funding on the MOHF webpage.

With help from an MOHF grant, the Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance, a non-profit land trust conserving the lands and waters of the upper Sheepscot River region in Waldo County, acquired two additional properties located in Liberty and Palermo.  This area includes some of the finest examples of mature forest types in the region, wetlands, excellent wildlife habitat, and an extensive network of hiking trails.

MOHF provided funding to Maine Audubon to help develop new Stream Smart training tools and workshops, including a new website and trainings for Soil and Water Conservation District staff and regional land use planners.
The Stream Smart website,, outlines the steps required to install a Stream Smart road crossing and provide guidance documents, resources and contact information for each step. It was developed to help anyone working on road-stream crossings and for professionals that work with communities, road owners, and managers (as well as anyone wanting to learn more about Stream Smart).

Through this project, Maine Audubon has increased the capacity of local professionals to assist communities across Maine identify and replace priority sites – those that have the highest associated habitat value and are causing the greatest infrastructure problems. These Stream Smart solutions will restore stream flow and habitat connectivity, benefiting brook trout, Atlantic salmon, and other aquatic fish and wildlife, and will protect roads, public safety, and water quality.

At Swan Island, an amazing place in the Kennebec River managed by DIF&W, MOHF funds will be used to improve island amenities and recreational opportunities as a central component to further attract outdoor enthusiasts and families while continuing to grow visitor rates.

MOHF funds will help acquire two properties totaling 84 acres with high value wildlife habitat and more than one mile of frontage on the Sheepscot River. The properties abut already conserved lands.

DIF&W got a grant to map shorebird movements to determine habitat use. Specifically, they will try to determine if coastal beach and saltmarsh habitats located in highly developed areas in York and Sagadahoc counties are providing migrating shorebirds with the resources they need to successfully complete migration. This study will assess impacts from disturbance by comparing local movements and length of stay of birds using beach habitats that have a high degree of disturbance with results from previous study that focused on shorebird use of mudflats and offshore islands located Down East, habitats with very little human related disturbance. This study will assess how different levels of disturbance from human activities affect habitat use and bird condition (health).

Next Round

The 152nd round of grants is coming right up. One page summary application forms are due by August 1, with nine copies of the final grant application due on September 1. If you or anyone you know has a worthy project needing funding, please visit the MOHF website.

Current Game

I don’t normally encourage gambling, but if you are already buying instant lottery tickets, please play the Maine Outdoor Heritage Game. Even if you lose, your money goes to a great cause. The current game is called Gopher Gold. Go for the gold!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.