When the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and Maine Audubon teamed up to create the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, I’m not sure any of us realized how much this program would contribute to an amazing array of outdoor recreation and conservation projects.
We gathered signatures to put the proposal on the ballot, but in a very unusual move, the legislature enacted it, without sending it to the ballot, and Governor Angus King signed it into law. It was my privilege to serve on the MOHF Board for the first ten years.
It has been years since I attended a board meeting, so it was a real pleasure to attend their meeting on October 27, to support Shelby Wright and the Maine Resource Recovery Association’s request for a small grant to help launch the Keep Maine Clean program, which will build an army of volunteers to clean up trash left along our roadsides by road slobs.
It was a special please to be there when Thomas Uruqhart, who just stepped down after a long tenure as MOHF Board chair, receive a special and well-deserved award. It was also great to see Carol Gay, who has done a terrific job for many years as the MOHF staffer.
A lot has changed since we started the program which gets it funding from a $1 lottery ticket. With proceeds from ticket sales, grants are awarded twice a year, totaling approximately $700,000 annually. That’s a lot less than the fund used to get each year.
When the program started in 1996, the MOHF lottery ticket was one of five instant tickets, all selling for $1. Today there are about 3 dozen tickets, some selling for $5 and $10. But the MOHF ticket is still locked in at $1, resulting in a lot less money for the program. Nevertheless, since 1996, $19 million had been awarded to 600 projects.
I did learn a couple of things yesterday that are of concern. First, applications for funding have decreased significantly. The board only had apps for 21 projects yesterday, compared to 45 last time. It appears that some of the decrease comes from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Each application must be submitted through a state agency, and only 3 came through DIF&W this round. I was quite surprised that no application was submitted by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine or any other sportsmen’s group. When I served as SAM’s executive director, we got a MOHF grant nearly every round. Clearly, sporting groups need to pay more attention to this. There are plenty of projects in need of funding!
I was also surprised that DIF&W Commissioner Chandler Woodcock, a board member, voted against 10 of the 21 projects, more than any other board member. He even voted against two of the three applications that came through his agency, including the Keep Maine Clean project.
I was also troubled by the fact that state agencies are now grabbing a lot of the funding. We did not create the program to help state agencies fund projects that didn’t make it into their budgets. We were told that over the last 5 rounds of funding, the Department of Marine Resources has been third in the list of those receiving the most grants. This round, DMR grabbed more than a third of all the funding, $100,238.
$81,057 was also left on the table and will be available in the next round of funding. Six of the 21 requests were not funded, mostly due to insufficient information in their applications.
Here’s where you can help. The new MOHF instant lottery game is called Maine-Ah Money. Buy some of those $1 tickets! And if your local store isn’t selling them, ask them to do that. Finally, if you are involved with a conservation or outdoor recreation project, please consider applying for an MOHF grant. All the information you need can be found on the MOHF website: www.maine.gov/ifw/MOHF.html.
There’s a lot of other information on the website too. Check it out!