Scribner parcel shoreline in winter. Submitted photo


OTISFIELD — On March 28, the Western Foothills Land Trust acquired an additional 42.8 acres of land in the Sebago Lake watershed. The forested Otisfield parcel includes 2,230 ft of frontage on the Crooked River. The Crooked River is the major tributary to Sebago Lake, providing 39% of the surface water flow into the lake. Sebago Lake is the reservoir for the Portland Water District, supplying clean drinking water to 1/6th of Maine, over 200,000 households and businesses. This piece of property is contiguous to three other WFLT properties, which together protect 306 acres of land and 11,424 ft of contiguous river frontage.

This newly acquired parcel increases the conserved lands along the Crooked River corridor, lands protected by fee ownership or conservation easement by the Western Foothills Land Trust, Loon Echo Land Trust, municipalities, the State of Maine, and the US Forest Service. Currently there are almost 10 miles of shore frontage protected along the 50-mile long Crooked River and 9,948 acres of lands protected within the Crooked River watershed. The Crooked River watershed is part of the larger Sebago Lake watershed.

This land was part of the traditional territory of the original land stewards, the Pequawket band of the Abenaki tribe.. Since settlement by colonialists, the land has been managed as a working forest. The most recent owners, Dale Scribner and his son Jesse Scribner, sold the land to Western Foothills in March. Due to the coronavirus crisis, the closing was accomplished by mail.

Approximately half the property is upland forests. These include pine-oak forest dominated by white pine, red oak, and hemlock, and pine barrens characterized by pitch pine. There is a small patch of northern hardwood forest that includes American beech, yellow birch, sugar maple, and some eastern hemlock. The lowland portion of the property is forested and shrub wetland, which plays a critical natural water filtering role for the Crooked River. As is common along the Crooked River, the parcel includes an old oxbow.

The Crooked River is valuable Wild Brook Trout Habitat and is the principal spawning tributary for the unique indigenous landlocked salmon of Sebago Lake, one of only four such populations in Maine. As the largest tributary to Sebago Lake, preserving forestland within this watershed is a critically important component to protecting water quality, community well-being, a vibrant economy, and fish and wildlife habitat in the Sebago Lake watershed, and for downstream water users in the greater Portland area.

Funding for this project came from the Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Portland Water District, the Sebago Clean Waters Due Diligence Fund.

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