It’s not grabbing headlines, but a statewide referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot includes funding that could help preserve coastal property for fishermen.

If approved by voters, the Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) program would receive $3 million for protecting the state’s shrinking working waterfront. It’s part of a proposed $35.5 million conservation bond, of which $20 million would be channeled to LMF.

An estimated 20 miles out of 5,300 total miles of coastal frontage remains in use for marine-related commercial purposes, according to a study completed earlier this year by the Island Institute. The selling of the coast for expensive, upscale homes is a continuing threat to fishermen. The trend drives up the price of land and real estate market-based waterfront taxes.

Tim Glidden, LMF director, is guardedly optimistic that the conservation borrowing measure will pass. He said preserving access and helping traditional fisheries survive is vitally important to the state’s economy and character — fisheries such as lobstering are part of what attracts people to visit Maine, he said. It’s part of the Maine identity, and that translates into marketable appeal.

“Some folks have expressed concern about whether this is a subsidy to the fishermen,” he said, but “the public benefits, beyond these few fishermen.” Current projects under way include the permanent protection of a fishing pier in Cundy’s Harbor, a joint agreement with the Port Clyde Fishermen’s Co-op, Perio Point access for lobstermen at Beals Island, a town wharf at Isle au Haut, assuring use of Roberts Wharf in Boothbay, and protecting access for the Spruce Head Fishermen’s Co-op.

Historically, Land for Maine’s Future has received stronger support from voters at large than from the Legislature. Among legislators in favor the Election Day bond is Rep. Leila Percy, D-Phippsburg, House chairman of the Marine Resources Committee.

She said protecting fishing access alongshore is vital to the industry, and “LMF is out of money.”

Since it began in 1987, the program has saved scenic and recreational places, water access and wildlife habitat throughout Maine. In 2000, voters approved $50 million for LMF projects, money that often leverages additional funds from private sources.

This time around, proposed funding is more modest: Of the $35.5 million total bond issue, $5 million is for riverfront development in Maine towns and cities; $7.5 million is for parks and historic sites and funds are also intended for supporting local farms, many of which are threatened by real estate development and large-scale agriculture in other states.

Four other questions on the ballot ask: