WATERFORD — A Massachusetts couple has donated a 12-acre wetland parcel to the Western Foothills Land Trust that officials say will act as a filter for the Crooked River.

The land is on the north end of Papoose Pond with 2,876 feet of frontage along Crooked River and the pond. It was donated by Ralph and Priscilla Stanley of Newton, Mass. Priscillia is a native of North Waterford.

Although it is small, Lee Dassler, executive director of the trust, said the land is a functionally significant wetlands parcel.

Dassler said the most important function of the acquisition is its proximity to the Crooked River.

“It’s between the (Papoose) pond and the (Crooked) river, where there’s lots of human activity,” she said. “Wetlands act as filters.”

In addition to residences in the area, Papoose Pond has 180 campsites and more than 60 cabins, cottages and rental trailers, which makes it an area of high human activity during the summer season.

According to information from Dassler, protection of the Crooked River’s upper most watershed is “critical to maintaining Class AA water quality in the Crooked River, which contributes 39 percent of the direct flow into Lake Sebago — drinking water for greater Portland’s 200,000 people.”

The river is also home to a genetically unique landlocked Atlantic salmon fishery protected by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The Crooked River has also been designated as one of Maine’s Outstanding Rivers under state legislation.

Because of the significance of the wetlands as a filtration system for the drinking water in greater Portland, the Portland Water District is going to make a contribution to the stewardship fund for this parcel.

Dassler said a habitat analysis conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s  Gulf of Maine Coastal Program in the Gulf of Maine watershed showed that forest and freshwater wetlands habitat contained in the parcel are of high value (within the top 25 percent), based on their importance to rare or declining species of birds and fish.

She said the analysis also predicted that the property will provide important habitat for 19 of 91 USFWS priority trust species included in the analysis and provides particularly high value habitat, in comparison with the rest of the Gulf of Maine watershed, for 14 of those 19 species. The species include northern harrier, American woodcock, common snipe, Canada warbler, chestnut-sided warbler, Louisiana waterthrush, veery, American bittern, American black duck, black tern, little blue heron, osprey, pied-billed grebe and wood duck.

The parcel is accessible on snowshoes over the pond in winter and by kayak or canoe in the summer.

“If you’re a bird lover you take your kayak over,” Dassler said.

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