FILE - ME wetland, marsh, Scarnorough

A marsh is seen at sunset in Scarborough, Maine.

Nineteen projects slated to restore, enhance or protect wetlands or other natural areas around the state will share more than $3.7 million in funding from the Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program (MNRCP).

The funding, which represents the largest amount awarded since the program started in 2009, will go toward restoration of nearly 25 acres and help with conservation efforts of an additional 3,000 acres, according to a news release from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

“MNRCP was created to help offset unavoidable impacts to natural resources at one site by funding the restoration or preservation of similar resources at another to maintain ecological benefits,” the release states.

"This program helps ensure that mitigation efforts have long-lasting benefits conserving key habitat areas around the state," said Bryan Emerson, mitigation program manager for The Nature Conservancy in Maine, which is one of the funding recipients and provides administrative oversight for all the projects. "The program has been successful at providing much-needed funding for high quality projects to applicants from all parts of Maine."

Other recipients of the funding this year include the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Three Rivers Land Trust, Bangor Land Trust, The Trust for Public Land, 7 Lakes Alliance, York Land Trust, Western Foothills Land Trust, Falmouth Land Trust, Great Works Regional Land Trust, the Maine Department of Transportation, Loon Echo Land Trust, Upper St. John River Organization, the Town of Wells, Royal River Conservation Trust, Orono Land Trust, and the Frenchman Bay Conservancy.

“MNRCP has become one of Maine’s most important tools for conservationists and developers to work together to protect fragile wetland habitats,” said DEP Commissioner Jerry Reid. “It’s a win for Maine’s natural environment, and its win for Maine’s economy.”

A sample of the projects to receive funding include a wildlife road crossing improvement project in Eliot, brook trout habitat restoration in Downeast Maine, and wetlands conservation at sites in Frenchville, Hancock, Kingfield, Orono, Mount Vernon, New Gloucester, and York.

“The program offers an efficient and workable alternative for permit applicants after all efforts have been made to avoid or minimize wetland impacts,” the release states. “In-lieu fees are collected from approved applicants and used to restore, enhance, or preserve aquatic resources and their associated uplands in the same region of the state, resulting in positive ecological outcomes.”

Once the In-lieu fees are collected by the Maine DEP and transferred to the MNCRP, public agencies and nonprofit organizations can apply to use the funds for restoration projects.