PHILLIPS — Maine’s natural resources heritage is “private ownership but public access,” U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Saturday in celebrating the permanent protection of more than 5,700 acres of working forest and multiuse trails in Madrid Township.

Collins spoke to a large gathering at the Phillips Area Community Center about the Orbeton Stream Project.

“Maine’s natural resources are an important part of our heritage and have helped to shape the economic, environmental and recreational character of our state,” she said.

 “These nearly 6,000 acres of woods and waters will provide for public recreation, forestry, and wildlife habitat for generations to come,” she said. “In safeguarding our natural heritage (we recognize) that it’s not about the environment versus the economy. The environment is the economy. The two are inextricably linked. When we work together and talk together, we solve problems together. You should be very proud of what you’ve accomplished.”

Visiting from his home state of New Mexico, Butch Blazer, Deputy Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, noted the diversity of the people in attendance.

Among the nearly 200 people were representatives from local, state and national government, the Trust for Public Land, the High Peaks Alliance, the North Franklin Snowmobile Club and other community organizations; also, snowshoers, hikers, hunters, fishermen, snowmobilers, Maine guides and ATV riders.

Blazer applauded their shared passion for the project, which enabled them to “figure out the sweet spot and come together in the middle,” resulting in “setting an example for the rest of the country (when it comes to) taking care of your woods resources.”

“You have a good track record,” Blazer said. “Keep it up. Do more of it. It sounds like that’s what you intend to do.”

Other speakers included Ben Tucker, regional representative for U.S. Sen. Angus S. King; state Sen. Tom Saviello; state Reps. Russell Black and Tom Skolfield; Richard Linkletter, landowner; and Milt Baston and Betsy Squibb of the High Peaks Alliance.

The Orbeton Stream Project land, owned and managed for timber by Linkletter Timberlands, a local family-owned company, is the largest remaining working forest parcel in Madrid Township. It includes a 6.4-mile section of snowmobile Routes 84 and 89, part of Maine’s Interconnected Trail System. It is now part of 77,000 conserved acres in the High Peaks Region.

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