An environmental program that was transferred recently from state administration to that of a private group received a boost in the form of a $10,000 grant that will help to keep the program running.

The program has been operated by the Department of Environmental Protection since 2004 and was transferred to the Maine Congress of Lake Associations this month.

LakeSmart recognizes lakefront property owners who manage their property in a way that encourages the health of the lakes.

A department spokeswoman said the transfer was made because the program was not reaching lakefront property owners in a cost-effective way under the state and would be more likely to succeed in the hands of a private organization.

Maggie Shannon, president of the lakes group, said last month it was eager to take the program on but that an estimated $70,000 would need to be raised to ensure funding.

On Friday, Shannon said $10,000 had been given to the congress from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, which the Legislature created in 1996 to fund critical conservation and wildlife projects.

She said the department had helped the group apply for three foundation grants, including the one from the heritage fund.

“It’s a great kickoff to our fundraising. We’ve made a very good start,” she said. “I’d say we’re a third of the way to where we want to be.”

Shannon said her group is seeking donations from individuals and corporations in addition to grants.

To date, she said, the transition of the program has gone more quickly than expected; with negotiations between the lakes group and the state now concluded, the group is in the process of identifying which of its 120 member lake associations will participate for the upcoming season.

The awards that participating landowners receive are highly visible signs, meant to appeal to the civic pride of neighboring landowners by putting social pressure on them to manage their properties in an environmentally friendly manner.

Shannon cited studies showing that if 15 percent of landowners on a lake participate, others are likely to join in.

In order to qualify for the program, a property owner must pass an inspection that gives points for environmentally friendly practices, such as planting vegetative buffers that slow pollution-bearing runoff.

In 2013, the program will not be altered significantly and is expected to run on at least 10 lakes, Shannon said.

The lakes group has set a goal of increasing participation to 60 lakes by 2018, an increase of about 10 lakes per year.

In order to improve the program, Shannon said, the lakes group will review and adapt it over the next three years to make it more efficient and transparent.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287
[email protected]

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