To store greenhouse gases, Maine looks to protect more than 2 Rhode Islands’ worth of forest by 2030

An aerial view of trees and the winding Swift Cambridge River in Grafton Township, Maine.

An aerial view of the Swift Cambridge River in Grafton Township, Maine. (Jerry Monkman /EcoPhotography)

Around the world, the push is on for large-scale conservation. Scientists say at least 30% of lands, fresh water and oceans need protection by 2030 to slow global warming and prevent species extinctions.

The ambitious 30 x 30 goal is part of President Biden’s climate agenda. It’s also a target in Maine, the most heavily forested state in the country. And there’s cautious optimism the target can be met.

First, a bit of math. Tim Glidden, outgoing president of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, says depending on how you calculate it, Maine has conserved about 4 million acres of land so far. That’s about 21%.

“That would include all the public lands, federal and state, and there’s some local lands as well as lands conserved by private organizations like MCHT and lands protected by conservation easement,” he says.

Under an arrangement known as an easement, land remains in private ownership but development rights are extinguished. To get to 30% in the next eight years, Maine will need to protect nearly 2 million more acres. That’s an area more than twice the size of Rhode Island. It’s a big number, and Glidden says conservation groups will need funding and they’ll need to be strategic.

“And now really redouble our efforts if we’re going to make the 30 x 30 goal,” he says.

As an example of how this can work, Tom Duffus of The Conservation Fund points to rural Oxford County, Maine, which includes part of the White Mountain National Forest, the Appalachian trail, three downhill ski areas and abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation such as hiking and snowmobiling.

These same amenities have fueled the red-hot real estate market during the pandemic, which is why Duffus was thrilled when 12,000 acres of forestlands in the area were recently protected from development with a conservation easement.

“Really, it comes right down to the landowners being eager and willing and having the forethought to look well beyond their own lifetime,” he says.

For the rest of this story, including the audio version, please visit This story is part of Maine Public’s series “Climate Driven: A deep dive into Maine’s response, one county at a time.