PARSONSFIELD (AP) – An 8,600-acre parcel of forest land will be permanently protected from development under the terms of a $2.8 million conservation easement announced Thursday.

The property, which conservationists call Maine’s largest contiguous block of forest land south of Sebago Lake, will be protected for sustainable forestry and for recreational uses such as snowmobiling, fishing, hunting and cross-country skiing.

The deal is the latest of many in Maine that have raised funds to protect large tracts of land for traditional recreational uses while also ensuring that logging practices remain sustainable.

Renewable Resources, the timber investor that owns the parcel known as the Leavitt Plantation, had planned to auction it off into as many as 13 parcels, according to The Nature Conservancy.

“The prospect of fragmenting and developing the Leavitt Plantation was staggering,” said Kent Wommack of The Nature Conservancy. “The property serves as an important economic resource and contributes to the town’s rural character and quality of life.”

The land is home to bears, deer, fishers, bobcats, moose, a variety of birds and 17 rare plant species, according to the conservation group, which raised $1 million for the project.

The conservation easement, sold by the land’s owner to the state Department of Conservation, ensures that the area’s forest management plan will be reviewed annually by state officials, The Nature Conservancy said.

Bob Saul of Renewable Resources lauded the agreement, saying, “The Leavitt Plantation will be preserved as a working forest providing a secure source of timber for the forestry-based economy in Maine, and the people of Parsonsfield have secured the future of a natural resource forever.”

Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and U.S. Rep. Tom Allen led efforts to secure nearly $600,000 in federal funding for the conservation easement. The deal also included $1.165 million from the Land for Maine’s Future program and at least $400,000 from private sources.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.