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State Facts

Miles of Coast: 3,478

Coastal Population (2000): 990,425

Lead Coastal Management Agency: Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry

Approval Date: 1978

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Ocean and Coastal Management in Maine

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Preserving working waterfronts is an important part of Maine's Coastal Program.

Maine's Coastal Program

The Maine Coastal Program, approved in 1978, balances development and conservation of Maine’s coastal resources. Led by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, the Coastal Program consists of a network of 19 state laws. Four state agencies work in cooperation with local governments, nonprofit organizations, private businesses, and the public to improve management of coastal resources.  Maine’s coastal zone extends to the inland boundary of all towns bordering tidal waters and includes all coastal islands.

At the state level, the Coastal Program provides support to natural resource agencies to implement and enforce appropriate laws.  The Coastal Program works with a variety of partners to address state and regional priority issues such as climate change adaptation and offshore ocean energy development. At the local level, the Coastal Program assists communities with land use planning and provides funding and technical assistance for other local efforts. Through its innovative Bay Management Study, the Coastal Program involves local citizens in managing their embayments by promoting sustainable use through support of both commercial and non-commercial uses and protection of natural resources. The Coastal Program also supports Maine's Working Waterfront Access Preservation Pilot program, which preserves working access for water dependent businesses such as commercial fishermen.

Maine’s National Estuarine Research Reserve

The 1,600 acre Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, located along Maine’s southern coast, was designated in 1986.  The Reserve protects fields, forests, salt marsh, and sandy beach. The Reserve’s diverse habitats support a broad variety of plants and animals, including rare species such as least terns, piping plovers, and slender blue flag iris.

The Reserve's research staff and visiting scientists investigate Gulf of Maine estuaries and watersheds to learn how to sustain and restore these coastal habitats and communities.  The Reserve provides a variety of educational opportunities including lectures, guided tours, workshops, and field trips. Educational programs focus on the Reserve’s natural history and coastal ecology, while addressing the effects of development, erosion, and pollution on watersheds.

Program Achievements

Maine's Beach Scoring System for the Management of the Sandy Shoreline

Maine Volunteer Monitoring Study


Maine Coastal Program — The website provides information on the Program including information on its permitting, coastal planning and technical assistance programs.

Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve — The Reserve’s website provides information on their many research, education, and stewardship activities.

Marine Protected Areas — Search for marine protected areas in Maine.

Maine Coastal Program Evaluation (2010) — The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management conducts periodic performance reviews of federally approved state coastal management programs.

Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve Evaluation (2009) — The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management conducts periodic performance reviews of estuarine research reserves.

Maine Coastal Zone Enhancement Program Assessment and Strategy (2011-2016) — Every five years, the Coastal Zone Management Act encourages states and territories to conduct self-evaluations of their coastal management programs to assess significant changes in the state’s coastal resources and management practices, identify critical needs, and prioritize areas for enhancement under the Coastal Zone Enhancement Program.

Maine Coastal Nonpoint Program Conditional and Final Approval Documents — The Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program encourages better coordination between state coastal zone managers and water quality experts to reduce polluted runoff in the coastal zone. The state received full approval in 2003.

Contact Information for Maine’s Programs

Coastal Programs
Maine Department of Conservation
93 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333
(207) 287-2801

Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve
342 Laudholm Farm Road
Wells, ME 04090
(207) 646-1555