BETHEL —  Inland Woods + Trails and The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit land trust,  announced an expansion of Bethel Community Forest, growing the protected forest by more than 50% to more than 1,500 acres.

The lands added to the Bethel Community Forest (532 acres) include 2,500 feet of Chapman Brook, which serves as Bethel’s backup water supply; 640 feet of Twitchell Brook with over an acre of mapped wild brook trout habitat; and roughly 121 acres of deer wintering area.
The trout and deer habitats are priorities for protection as identified by the state of Maine. Additionally, the land contains priority habitat for more than two dozen U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Priority Trust Species including the American woodcock, killdeer, bald eagle, peregrine falcon and red-shouldered hawk. The Fund transferred the property to Inland Woods + Trails earlier this month.
The expansion protects part of the former Chadbourne Tree Farm’s iconic and historic working forest landscape in western Maine from fragmentation and development. In 1634, William Chadbourne arrived from England, at the direction of King Charles I, to establish a sawmill on the Wabanaki homeland. Across the ensuing 400 years and 12 generations, the family’s tree farm supported the livelihoods and economies of communities throughout the region.
The balance of the former Chadbourne lands, which total over 12,000 acres, remain with White Pine Forest, LLC while the Fund and its partners assemble additional conservation funding.
The Inland Woods + Trails purchase was made possible thanks to support from two anonymous donors, and from the Oxford County Land Conservation Grant Program in partnership with The Stifler Family Foundation. These and other community gifts matched funding provided by the USDA Forest Service’s Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program (Community Forest Program).
Other partners,  Mahoosuc Land Trust, Western Foothills Land Trust, Greater Lovell Land Trust, the state of Maine, U.S. Forest Service and others have helped to raise the funds needed to permanently conserve the forests. Approximately 1,300 acres of former Chadbourne lands were permanently conserved in December 2021 through a conservation easement held and stewarded by Mahoosuc Land Trust, and nearly 500 acres have been conveyed to Western Foothills Land Trust to date, with more to come.

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