Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund grants go to lots of great projects

Many years ago, when Angus King was governor, I decided to try to get some public money for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. I worked for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine at that time and recruited Maine Audubon to be our partner.

Chris Potholm did a poll for us, showing that the public’s first choice for funding was an instant lottery game. So we went with that, to create the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund. We collected signatures to put our initiative on the ballot, but the legislature surprised us by enacting it, and Angus signed it into law. It was one of only two citizen initiatives to be enacted by the legislature rather than put on the ballot.

I served on the MOHF Board for its first ten years, and I’m very proud that the Fund has provided more than $20 million for conservation and outdoor recreation projects. Here are a few projects that received funding in the last round.

Maine Brook Trout Coastal Stream and Pond Survey

With funding from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, Trout Unlimited and its partners—the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), Maine Audubon, and many volunteers successfully completed their seventh year of volunteer remote pond surveys and their 4th year of coastal stream surveys for brook trout. In 2017, 31 volunteers contributed 461 documented volunteer hours, accessing 34 ponds and surveying 32 of them and surveying 33 coastal streams. Brook trout were caught in 10 of 32 ponds and 12 of 33 streams.

Extensive volunteer effort was conducted on streams in the Yarmouth-Wiscasset area, particularly tributaries to Casco Bay. Several streams in this region were sampled regularly by anglers, who also deployed 14 continuous temperature data loggers on 5 different streams, documenting temperatures highly suitable for brook trout in Frost Gully Brook in Freeport, Mere Brook in Brunswick, and Montsweag Brook in Wiscasset and Woolwich.

MDIFW crews from the Bangor office completed net surveys of 28 remote ponds where brook trout were caught or where volunteer results suggested they might be present, confirming the presence of brook trout in 14 of them. MDIFW-Bangor crews also completed electrofishing surveys of 50 sites in 23 watersheds where volunteer results suggested brook trout were present.

Brook trout were documented at 31 of 50 sites in 21 of 23 watersheds. MDIFW staff from the Gray regional office also electrofished 14 sites in the Frost Gully Brook and Mill Stream watersheds in Freeport, documenting brook trout at 10 sites, including tidal sites on Mill Stream.


Reconstruction of Rainbow Dam to Protect Artic Charr and Brook Trout


Working with Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologists, Tolman Construction, Wright Pierce Engineering and the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, The Nature Conservancy completed during winter of 2017-2018 the re-construction of the historic outlet dam built on Rainbow Lake on The Nature Conservancy’s Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area in Rainbow Township, Piscataquis County, Maine. The justification for replacing the dam was to continue to restrict fish passage into Rainbow Lake, thereby protecting a rare and endemic population of Arctic charr from competition and predation from introduced landlocked salmon found downstream, the presence of which had been confirmed by state fisheries agencies. Other project objectives included maintaining the current lake level, ensuring continued water flow downstream to Rainbow Deadwaters, and retiring the old Rainbow Road access road following completion of the project.

Allagash Wilderness Waterway Snowmobiles


MOHF recently helped provide funding to the Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW) Rangers for a snowmobile for patrol of the AWW to ensure compliance with waterway rules. The snowmobile was also used to bring supplies and materials to remote locations within the AWW. It also assisted the Maine Warden Service. This snowmobile has been a very useful piece of equipment for the Rangers at AWW.
Improvements at Pierce Pond to Facilitate Learning about Fish Passage


Blue Hill Heritage Trust and a set of partners made key improvements to a newly completed fishway restoration and enhancement at Pierce Pond in Penobscot. These improvements included a viewing platform, short walking trail, school-bus turnaround and parking, benches and table, and interpretive signage. This work was done to meet the educational needs of local school groups and those of conservation education in general.


These improvements were part of a larger project to restore fish passage to the pond, through replacement of an existing dam with a nature-like pool and weir system. This was done with a broad array of partners: The Nature Conservancy and NOAA, Maine Sea Grant, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the Town of Penobscot, and the Town of Penobscot Alewife Committee.


Thanks to MOHF funding and the hard work of a number of people and organizations, BHHT was able to meet all the objectives put forth in our proposal.

Shooting Range and Facilities Access Improvement Program


The State of Maine, Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife’s Shooting Range and Facilities Access Improvement Program increases accessibility, public safety and hunter satisfaction by improving the availability of adequate facilities for the training and maintenance of skillful shooters and hunters.


Through this program they have instituted a small grants program to fund local sportsman’s groups to increase safety and reduce the environmental effects of both lead and noise on their ranges. To date, they have provided technical assistance and funding for upgrades to 21 separate clubs/ranges. This program has resulted in an overall increase in the capacity, safety, and public access to these shooting ranges and helped provide quality and safe shooting opportunities to the citizens of Maine.

Trail Enhancements for Year Round Recreation and Stewardship Promotion


MOHF recently awarded Maine Huts & Trails a grant for trail enhancements for year round recreation and stewardship promotion. This project exceeded expectations with the building of a new youth educational program partnership in conjunction with progress toward one of the project’s targeted trail development goals. Additionally, the project has improved the safety of access to Maine Huts & Trails’ facilities and their surrounding natural wonders.  For more information about Maine Huts & Trails, go to

And here’s more good news. On October 25, more grants will be awarded by the MOHF Board.

Please help support MOHF and the wonderful projects like those reported above by purchasing MOHF lottery tickets! The current ticket is the Lucky Catch ticket. And be on the lookout for the “Moose Money” ticket coming this fall!Y ou can’t lose with the MOHF ticket as all proceeds got to wildlife and conservation!




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.