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Environmental groups near fundraising goal to purchase 82-acres of marsh and fields to designate as conservation land

Advocates say they're about $120,000 shy of the $2.2 million needed to purchase the Cousins River Marsh & Fields in Yarmouth, which is threatened by climate change.

YARMOUTH, Maine — Across Maine, communities are facing the impacts of climate change. That's the case in Yarmouth, as environmental groups look to preserve and protect an area they say is at risk of changing as the climate warms.

"Salt marshes are a special kind of habitat, that are particularly periled by climate change and sea-level rise," said Amanda Devine, a Regional Stewardship Specialist with the Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT).

Devine works in conservation and lives nearby the Cousins River Marsh and Fields. There's now a growing effort to protect those lands.

"In this property, we have little draws, gullies if you will, that extend into the forest which are currently dominated by freshwater vegetation. As the marsh becomes more inundated with rising sea levels, those freshwater draws will become basically tidal marsh, so the habitat, the whole habitat, shifts up and inland," said Devine. 

In an effort to protect this marsh and the land surrounding it, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust has teamed up with the Royal River Conservation Trust, and Freeport Conservation Trust to raise the funds needed to purchase it.

David Warren, MCHT Planned Giving and Major Gifts officer says it will cost roughly $2.2 million to purchase the land, as well as money to go towards pooled stewardship funds, and operational support. Right now, the land trusts are just $120,00 shy of their fundraising goal.

"This is actually one of the largest undeveloped tracks of land that touches saltwater in Cumberland and York counties, and it has a great marsh migration aspect to it which is important with the anticipation of sea-level rise," said Warren.

The land trusts looking to purchase this area of land wants to prevent any future development from happening in the area. They want to keep the land open for the community to use for recreation, but also to allow the marsh and surrounding lands to respond naturally to a changing climate.

On Sunday, the three lands trusts, along with Liquid Riot Bottling Company hosted a 'Meet the Marsh' event. The groups welcome community members to tour the land and learn about how climate change is threatening the saltwater marsh. 

Ian Michaud, head distiller at Liquid Riot says he has lived his entire life nearby the marsh and fields and wants to help protect them.

"I do like to see a lot of this older land being conserved and hopefully being used for more traditional uses," said Michaud.

More than 150 attended the event Sunday, which also featured local food as well as local crafters. 

The groups will have until the end of 2021 to raise the nearly $2.2 million needed to preserve the entire 82-acre parcel of marshlands and fields.

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