More than 12,000 acres of forestland has been newly conserved in Oxford County.

Mahoosuc Land Trust, Sebago Clean Waters, landowners Mary McFadden and Larry Stifler and The Conservation Fund, in partnership with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Portland Water District, recently announced the conservation of 12,268 acres.

A conservation easement, held and stewarded by Mahoosuc Land Trust on this privately-owned property will permanently protect the vast forestland from development and fragmentation, and preserve its ecological, recreational and water quality benefits for the community.

The vision and dedication of married philanthropists McFadden and Stifler spurred the acquisition of this land, known to its owners as Northern Retreat. In the 1970s, the couple started acquiring parcels of forestland in Albany Township with a plan to conserve them for future generations. In a region where forest fragmentation is common, McFadden and Stifler made it their goal to “un-fragment” the property to keep it conserved and available for public recreation, establishing numerous hiking and biking trails designed by Bruce Barrett.

When building out their legacy of land, McFadden and Stifler discovered the rich mineralization of Oxford County, famous for its tourmaline, quartz and beryl. This effort became a starting point for their inspiration to establish the Maine Mineral & Gem Museum in 2012.

McFadden and Stifler donated the vast majority of the conservation easement’s value to make this collaborative effort possible and to inspire others.


“Our donation on this land was to ensure it will be permanently conserved,” McFadden and Stifler said, according to a news release from Sebago Clean Waters. “We and our three children are also pleased to protect the Sebago watershed and the extraordinary resources and beauty of this area for generations to come. We’re excited to share this land with the public and make this statement for conservation.”

The landowners worked closely with various nonprofit partners to make this goal a reality. Kirk Siegel, Mahoosuc Land Trust’s executive director, said “Western Foothills Land Trust and Inland Woods + Trails jumped at the opportunity to work with The Conservation Fund and our other partners to help conserve the Chadbourne Tree Farm lands last year. The creativity that came out of that partnership is what made it possible to complete this historic project with McFadden and Stifler, while we continue working on conservation of the entire 15,000-acre Chadbourne Tree Farm lands.”

Over 7,500 acres of this project are located within the Crooked River watershed, and the easement project is called the Crooked River Headwaters. The Crooked River is the largest tributary to Sebago Lake. The lake is the primary drinking water supply for over 200,000 Maine residents in the greater Portland area and one of only 50 public surface water supplies in the U.S. that requires no filtration before treatment.

The property is located in the territory of the Wabanaki people in what are now the towns of Waterford, Greenwood, Norway and Albany Township. It contains forests that the landowners have left to mature for 40 years, optimizing the forest’s ability to grow and sequester carbon and filter water. The landscape is abundant with critical wildlife habitat and awe-inspiring mountain views, and features nine pristine ponds, approximately six miles of frontage on the Crooked River and intact forestlands that are crucial for local resiliency against the effects of climate change.

Identified as a top conservation priority by Sebago Clean Waters, this property achieves 21% of the coalition’s goal to conserve 35,000 acres in the Sebago Lake watershed.

“This historic project marks a significant milestone in our efforts to conserve Sebago region forests to protect water quality, wildlife and the Maine way of life,” said Karen Young, partnership director of Sebago Clean Waters. “It demonstrates the power of collaboration and the collective Sebago Clean Waters vision to inspire action to protect places that are critical to our well-being.”

Funding was also provided by Maine Community Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and Maine Mountain Collaborative, along with additional Sebago Clean Waters funding.

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