Outdoors in Maine: Protection of state's coastal forestland receives major boost

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Back in May, an important press release apparently got upstaged by other events, or simply slipped beneath the radar. It was a land-conservation story of significance. There are a lot of organizational names, big words and capitalizations connected to this press release, which may partly explain the lack of “public buzz.”

Here is the upshot of the press release. Please pay attention.

“A collaborative effort between The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, New England Forestry Foundation, Blue Hill Heritage Trust, and Downeast Salmon Federation will provide opportunities to conserve more than 17,000 acres of forestland to protect wildlife habitat, ensure future recreational access and support the economies of nearby coastal communities.

The Maine Coastal Forest Partnership celebrated a major milestone with The Conservation Fund’s purchase of 17,881 acres in Hancock and Washington Counties on May 1. The fund’s acquisition provides the time and opportunity to secure funding to permanently conserve large, ecologically important forestland.”

Boiled down, here is what happened. In order to preserve this country’s last remaining undeveloped, unfragmented coastal forests in Downeast Maine, The Conservation Fund (a national organization) purchased 17,000 acres from a private landowner while it was still “on the block.” Three separate Downeast land conservation organizations will now engage in fund-raising activities in order to reimburse The Conservation Fund for its outlay. Here’s how the press release explains it:

“Composed of three distinct properties, the lands will ultimately be conveyed to local conservation partners for perpetual protection and management. The partners now turn their collective attention to raising the funds to complete their acquisitions.

The 13,799-acre Spring River-Narraguagus Forest property in Hancock County will be acquired by The Nature Conservancy.

The 2,070-acre Venture Brook Forest property in Washington County will be acquired by the New England Forestry Foundation.

The 2,012-acre Meadowbrook Forest property in Hancock County will be acquired by Blue Hill Heritage Trust.

Contrary to popular belief, and according to The Conservation Fund spokesman Tom Duffus, these conserved lands will not be taken off the tax rolls, they will not be closed to traditional recreational use, and with the exception of the ecological reserve parcels, many of these lands will be subject to responsible, sustainable logging practices.

Although all of the parcels are significant conservation acquisitions, the Spring River- Narraguagus Forest purchase is the crown jewel, so to speak. It comprises 14,000 acres that is just north of another jewel, the Spring River Preserve and the Donnell Pond Unit managed by the Bureau of Public Lands.

Collectively calling itself the Maine Coastal Forest Partnership, this land conservation coalition deserves our appreciation for their vision, teamwork and dedication, which will protect a precious coastal Maine wilderness area for many generations to come.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.net.

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