Two Million Maine Acres Conserved for Wildlife and Recreation
PORTLAND, ME - More than 2 million acres of Maine is now conserved as a vast interconnected forest that stretches from the St. John Valley to Moosehead Lake to Mount Katahdin.
The Nature Conservancy, the Forest Society of Maine, and Plum Creek announced an historic conservation easement on 363,000 acres near Greenville. The easement is one of the largest in the history of conservation in the United States, and it serves as the missing piece that connects existing protected lands to create one of the nation's most extensive conserved working forests.
But perhaps as important as its scale, is a commitment that this property will remain accessible, ensuring a future for the long tradition of recreation and sustainable forestry in the Maine woods.
"From businesses that will continue to harvest wood to visitors who paddle the Moose River, the conservation of the Moosehead Lake region will help protect Maine's way of life," said Mike Tetreault, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Maine, who led a celebration at the Maine Historical Society today.
"For more than a century, local foresters and hunting and fishing guides have built a livelihood from this forest, and the plan for balancing community goals with the needs of nature will allow that long tradition of multiple-use forests to continue," Tetreault said.
"Maine is defined by its sense of place and by the resource-based industries that depend upon our woods and waters. This project is a great example of how we can balance the economic aspirations of our citizens and landowners with protection of our natural resources for future generations of Mainers," said Bill Beardsley, commissioner of the Maine Department of Conservation.
"I want to thank Plum Creek and congratulate them and partners Forest Society of Maine and The Nature Conservancy for ensuring that traditional recreational access will continue for generations on these private timberlands," said Gary Lamb, town manager in Greenville.
"Too often we take such access for granted. It can be gone with the stroke of a pen with locked gates to follow," Lamb said. "The business and recreational communities of the Greenville and Moosehead Lake area are very thankful for the long term vision and commitment to this conservation easement."
The 363,000-acre easement, which will be held by the Forest Society of Maine, will permit recreation, including hunting, fishing, hiking and snowmobiling on set trails; as well as forestry that meets the standards of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI ®) and other conservation guidelines, while allowing forest products to continue to benefit the local economy.
"Plum Creek is pleased to have worked through the regulatory process and partnered with The Nature Conservancy to conserve these important lands and help provide a predictable future for the Moosehead region," said Luke Muzzy, senior land asset manager for Plum Creek.
The 363,000-acre easement announced today includes some lands on which the easement was donated by Plum Creek, and additional acreage where the conservation easement was purchased by The Nature Conservancy, using funds being raised as part of its ongoing $100 million Sustainable Maine, Sustainable Planet campaign, as well as some funds raised by the Forest Society of Maine.
The Moosehead easement conserves habitat for dozens of protected fish and wildlife species, as well as 30 sites that have been identified as habitat for rare and endangered plants. The conserved area includes 200 miles of lakeshore, and includes lands near Moosehead - the second-largest lake in New England - as well as 68 other lakes and ponds.
The terms of the easement guarantee public access for traditional recreational uses, including: hunting, fishing, camping at designated sites, canoeing, and cross-country skiing. The easement also protects access to 160 miles of trails that are used by hikers and snowmobilers.
"This land base has had an uncertain future for many generations. This conservation easement will make possible investment in much-needed permanent outdoor recreational infrastructure such as trails for hiking, biking and snowmobiling, all of which will enhance the outdoor experience for current and future visitors," said John Simko, a Greenville resident who served as town manager while the concept plan was being developed.
"Today’s celebration is truly about how conservation, business, government and community interests can work together to achieve remarkable things," said Alan Hutchinson, executive director of the Forest Society of Maine.
"As the result of the commitment and hard work of many, hundreds of thousands of acres of woods and waters in the Moosehead region will be growing and sustaining trees and forests, Canada lynx and brook trout, and generations of healthy outdoor enthusiasts," Hutchinson said. "The Forest Society of Maine is honored and ready to be a part of that future, as the overseer of this conservation easement."
The new easement provides a bridge between existing conservation lands, including 44,000 acres that have recently been protected in the region. The Nature Conservancy and the State of Maine have purchased 15,000 acres known as Moose River Reserve, which includes portions of Number 5 Bog
"The Maine woods is the last large and unfragmented wild place in the East, and this historic easement ensures that the remote and undeveloped character of this region will be retained, and the public will forever be able to access this land and enjoy its natural, scenic, and recreational assets," said Walter Graff, senior vice president of the Appalachian Mountain Club.
This easement represents the conservation portion of a framework developed by Plum Creek for a large portion of its lands in Maine and approved by the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission. Through a multi-year process, a concept plan was developed that balances development and conservation in the Moosehead region. The outcome: 96 percent of the land was conserved and just four percent zoned for development. Earlier this spring, a legal challenge to the plan was dismissed, clearing the way for completion of the full conservation vision.
"Community and conservation go hand in hand," said Meredith Jones, president and chief executive officer of the Maine Community Foundation, which will be managing the $1.56 million stewardship fund for the property, which was supplied by Plum Creek. "We believe this easement will strengthen Maine’s quality of place and we are pleased to partner in its long-term stewardship," she said.
The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. www.nature.org/maine
Plum Creek is the largest and most geographically diverse private landowner in the nation, with approximately 6.6 million acres of timberlands in major timber producing regions of the United States and wood products manufacturing facilities in the Northwest.
In Maine, the company owns and manages approximately 883,000 acres. www.plumcreek.com
The Forest Society of Maine, created to serve as Maine’s land trust for the North Woods, works to sustain the ecological, economic, cultural, and recreational values of Maine’s forests.
As a nationally accredited land trust with strong expertise in large, working forest conservation easements, the Forest Society of Maine oversees nearly one million acres of conserved lands. www.fsmaine.org
Scenic b-roll footage showing aerial views of the Moosehead Region and easement lands is available for download at: http://vimeo.com/user1320973/videos