More than 15,000 acres of western Maine forestland assembled over the past 150 years by the Chadbourne family has been purchased by a group led by The Conservation Fund.

The acquisition was done through an auction, the organization announced in a news release Monday. 

A trail runs through Chadbourne Tree Farm land in western Maine. LandVest photo

Chadbourne Tree Farms LLC put the property — 15,408 acres consisting of multiple parcels mostly in the Bethel and Waterford areas — up for auction last year. The purchase price was not disclosed, and according to Tom Duffus, vice president and Northeast representative for The Conservation Fund, it is being kept confidential at the Chadbourne family’s request. 

“The Chadbourne Tree Farm has been a highly-coveted resource for the community, for the forest products industry, for a lot of people for a long period of time, many, many generations,” Duffus said. “And the property came up for auction last fall, and working with other land trust partners The Conservation Fund was able to be the successful bidder. 

“We bought the entire property, and we are now going to be pursuing long-term and permanent conservation for the land, so that the lands can stay in production for forest products, available to the public for enhanced public recreation, and continue to provide the environmental, water quality and habitat benefits that the property provides.” 

Partners working with The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit, include Western Foothills Land Trust, Mahoosuc Land Trust and Mahoosuc Pathways. 


“Partnerships always make for a better project, in my book,” Duffus said. “These are local organizations that each will be taking on parts of the property, and so that’s very, very helpful to have them in at the onset.” 

The Androscoggin River flows through Chadbourne Tree Farm land in western Maine, with the White Mountains in the distance. EcoPhotography photo

Mahoosuc Pathways Executive Director Gabe Perkins, like Duffus, was surprised when the property became available, but the organization he leads is grateful that it did. 

“Something I thought was going to take a generation to do has been accomplished in, or is within grasp, in nine years of our founding of our organization,” Perkins said. “So it’s happening very fast and it’s very exciting.” 

Perkins said Mahoosuc Pathways was started as an effort to create recreational trail networks in the Bethel area, namely a trail system that connected the Sunday River and Mt. Abram ski areas.  

“We’ve sort of taken up that task as our charge, and worked for five years to get the (Bethel Community Forest), and to get permissions to Sunday River squared away,” Perkins said. “We weren’t quite sure when we were going to be able to put the same amount of effort into heading towards Mt. Abram, but then lo and behold (the auction announcement) happened the week after we had a celebration to announce the opening of the Bethel Community Forest last summer.” 

Perkins said Mahoosuc Pathways will work with The Conservation Fund and any subsequent landowner to be the recreation manager for the lands. 


The property also includes Tumbledown Dick Mountain in Gilead. The Mahoosuc Land Trust will work with The Conservation Fund to protect the site to secure the wildlife habitat and improve recreational access, according to the news release. 

“Recreational access and habitat connectivity together are a huge benefit to our region, so when we find a large area that can fulfill both needs, we have to seize the opportunity to make that conservation permanent,” Kirk G. Siegel, executive director of the Mahoosuc Land Trust, in the release. “As our region’s population and tourism grow over time and our forest faces fragmentation, Tumbledown Dick is a place that we will look back on and be so glad we protected for future generations.” 

Western Foothills Land Trust Executive Director Lee Dassler said in the news release, “Securing these lands and protecting them as working lands forever — especially those in Waterford, Norway and Oxford — will be our greatest challenge to date, and we look forward to working with our conservation partners, state and federal agencies, and local municipalities to achieve this goal.” 

Also in the news release, Dassler called the Chadbourne family lands “some of the finest working forestlands in western Maine.” 

Duffus said the spread-out parcel, assembled over 150 years for the purpose of servicing the Chadbourne family’s sawmills, “reflects the wisdom of the Chadbourne family in finding the very best particularly white pine growing properties in the region to assemble to create a financially-viable and manageable, sustainable forest.” 

“This forestland and its exceptional white pine timber resources reflect decades of long-term stewardship administered by my father, as well as generations of the Chadbourne family with the help of many skilled and hardworking employees, associates and contractors,” Bob Chadbourne said in the news release. “The Chadbourne family is so very pleased to work with The Conservation Fund to ensure that these lands will remain forested and continue to provide timber resources and other benefits.” 


Duffus said he’s been delighted to work with the Chadbourne family. 

“We’ve enjoyed a really great relationship with them, which I think will endure now that we own the family lands,” Duffus said. 

Beyond conserving the land for its timber resources and recreation, the purchase helps secure land in the Crooked River Watershed, which Duffus said is the “primary water source for one-in-six Mainers.” The river flows into Sebago Lake, which supplies water to the city of Portland. 

Western Maine Foothills Land Trust is part of a coalition with Portland Water District called Sebago Clean Waters, which is making an effort to conserve 35,000 acres in the Crooked River Watershed. Duffus said land acquired from the Chadbourne family makes up “almost 10%” of that goal. 

Duffus said that for the bulk of the property, nearly 11,000 acres, the Fund is “pursuing a forest legacy program funding for conservation easement.” Once the easement is in place, which the Fund hopes will be in the next two to three years, Duffus said, “we would then put that land back in the marketplace, but it will be subject to the limitations that the conservation easement provides.” 

A map showing Chadbourne Tree Farm lands purchased by The Conservation Fund, colored in red. Courtesy of The Conservation Fund

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