A map designates an area of the High Peaks Region in western Maine where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering establishing a wildlife refuge of 5,000 to 15,000 acres. The area stretches from the northeast corner of Byron in Oxford County, northeast into parts or all of some towns, townships and plantations in Franklin County. Submitted Photo

Maine’s Congressional delegation has sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service voicing “serious concerns” regarding a potential National Wildlife Refuge in the High Peaks Region of western Maine.

In the letter, U.S. Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins, as well as U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, said the federal government should “terminate its evaluation of the High Peaks Region for inclusion in the National Wildlife Refuge system and instead, work with the established local conservation entities and the state to address any wildlife-related issues.”

According to the Sun Journal, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service identified a 200,000-acre study area targeting the Appalachian Trail corridor, which includes 10 of Maine’s 14 highest summits as well as the Saddleback and Sugarloaf ski areas, although those specific resorts would not be included.

The USFWS outlined the project on its website, stating that, “the region’s high-elevation habitats, and the species they support, are currently underrepresented in the Refuge System. “If created, the refuge would be between 5,000 and 15,000 acres, federal officials said.

Meetings in Rangeley and Farmington were held by USFWS officials in May to present details of the proposal and get feedback on land conservation in the region.

According to the letter from the congressional delegation, “the sentiment expressed in those meetings has made it clear that the overwhelming majority of residents have serious reservations about federal involvement in the region’s land conservation efforts.”


The letter also said that nearly one-third of the 200,000-acre study area is already conserved through local or state efforts.

“Given the extensive conservation efforts already established in the region, it is unclear what additional benefits the creation of a new National Wildlife Refuge would provide,” the delegation said. “To date, the USFWS has not articulated a clear conservation failure that needs to be corrected or a conservation objective that could only be addressed through the establishment of a federal refuge.”

The letter goes on to say that “if existing conservation efforts are failing or not living up to their potential, the USFWS should work with state and local partners to adjust existing management efforts rather than layering direct federal management over the existing conservation landscape.”

On Tuesday, Wilton joined Eustis and Avon in signing on to a letter addressed to King, Collins and Golden in opposition to the proposal, according to the Franklin Journal.

Franklin County Commissioners Bob Carlton of Freeman Township and Lance Harvill of Farmington voted last month to sign a letter to the state’s congressional delegation opposing a national wildlife refuge. Commission Chairman Terry Brann of Wilton abstained, saying he didn’t believe the commission should take a stand.

Carlton said at that time that an attempt 10 years ago to create a refuge in the area failed.


“We think we do a pretty good job in the state of Maine,” he said, of conserving land. He named some of the parcels including Bigelow Preserve.

Speaking as a commissioner, Carlton said he is opposed as a resident, forester and landowner. He and others don’t trust the federal government, he said.

“This is about local control,” he said.

Zachary Holman, press secretary for Sen. King, said Friday that King led the drafting of the letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife “after extensive engagement with local leaders and stakeholders in the High Peaks area.”

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