$1.25M set aside to conserve land near Moosehead


AUGUSTA (AP) – The Land for Maine’s Future board unanimously approved a $1.25 million grant to help fund a conservation easement on more than 37,000 acres of Appalachian Mountain Club land near Moosehead Lake.

Tuesday’s approval came despite concerns raised by some snowmobilers, professional guides and sporting camp owners.

The AMC bought the Katahdin Iron Works property from International Paper Co. in 2003 for $14 million. The state money approved by the board will be combined with more than $4 million in federal funds to purchase the conservation easement.

The property, located between Greenville and Brownville, includes miles of multiple-use recreational trails, remote ponds and several historic sporting camps. It is bisected by a section of the Appalachian Trail that leads to Gulf Hagas, a popular waterfall.

While the plan to sell the easement won strong support from Maine’s conservation community, snowmobilers objected to the AMC’s decision to set aside 10,000 of the 37,000 acres as an ecological reserve in which motorized equipment would be banned.

Representatives of the Moosehead Riders Snowmobile Club and the Maine Snowmobile Association had urged members of the Land for Maine’s Future board to reject the use of tax dollars on a project that restricts access to sledders.

Guides expressed concern that bear baiting would not be permitted in the 10,000-acre reserve, which would remain open to other forms of hunting, fishing, trapping and non-motorized backcountry recreation.

Snowmobiling is still permitted on trails in the remaining 27,000 acres.

Board member Jeffrey Thaler said the presence of an unadulterated, wild population of brook trout and rare plants within the proposed reserve supported the AMC’s case for restricted use.

If the club had placed limits on the public access throughout the entire property, Thaler said, he would not support the purchase.

Walter Graff, the AMCs deputy director, said he hoped the project could become “a model of balance for multiple uses.”

Information from: Bangor Daily News, http://www.bangornews.com

AP-ES-01-17-07 1102EST