This map shows recent acquisitions to conserve 2,706 acres between Mount Abraham to the right and Saddleback Mountain at left in northern Franklin County. The purchase price for the 21 parcels was $3.8 million, according to Jim Britt, director of communication for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. Submitted photo

MOUNT ABRAM TOWNSHIP — A total of 2,706 acres have been added to the Mount Abraham Maine Public Reserved Land in northern Franklin County, conserving areas between Saddleback Mountain in Sandy River Plantation and Mount Abraham in Mount Abram Township.

“The total purchase cost for the parcels was approximately $3.8 million,” Jim Britt, communication director for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, wrote in an email Tuesday.

The 21 parcels included seven owners and were acquired as part of the Keystones project, a collaboration between the state and conservation partners to protect over 2,700 acres of critical wildlife habitat in the High Peaks region.

The High Peaks includes 10 mountain peaks over 4,000 feet, the Appalachian Trail, and the largest expanse of high-elevation forest in the state. The region is bordered by state Route 4 to the southwest, state Route 16 to the northwest, state Route 16/27 to the northeast, and state Route 142 to the southeast.

“Completing the Keystones project marks an important milestone in our enduring efforts to safeguard Maine’s natural heritage and longstanding tradition of public access,” Bill Patterson, deputy director of the bureau, said in a release. “These protected lands preserve critical wildlife habitats and ensure public access to outdoor recreation, further enriching the lives of Mainers and our visitors. We sincerely thank all the partners, donors, and landowners whose dedication and collaboration have made this achievement possible.”

Protection of these properties between Saddleback Mountain and Mount Abraham builds on recent conservation successes and contributes to a contiguous landscape of over 100,000 acres that are permanently conserved and that play important roles in supporting outdoor recreation, connected wildlife habitats that allow species to move across the landscape, timber harvest, mature forest, and carbon sequestration and storage, according to the release.


More than 2,700 acres have been conserved in a “Keystone” project in northern Franklin County. Conservation groups and state departments partnered to preserve the area to form a connection between Mount Abraham and Saddleback. Submitted photo

The addition of these lands to Maine’s Public Reserve system connects a 5,000-acre conservation easement held by the Bureau of Parks and Land, the Mount Abraham Maine Public Reserved Land managed by the bureau, the Appalachian Trail Corridor, and the Perham Stream Birding Trail property owned by the High Peaks Alliance.

These lands are part of the traditional territory and of ongoing cultural significance to the Wabanaki People. They include four and a half miles of frontage on Orbeton and Perham streams, which are listed as Wild Brook Trout Priority Areas by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The streams join each other before meeting with the upper Sandy River, a tributary to the Kennebec River that is widely considered to be the top priority in Maine for endangered Atlantic salmon recovery.

The Keystones project creates better road access to the Mount Abraham Maine Public Reserved Land, opportunities for new access points along Perham and Orbeton streams for fishing, swimming, and hand-carry boat use, a trail connection to Orbeton Cascades —”a series of gorgeous waterfalls — and permanent access for hunting and other recreational activities. It also protects local ATV trails, almost 5 miles of snowmobile trail ITS-84, and the viewshed along the Appalachian Trail less than a half mile to the north, according to the release

“The Keystones project is a testament to what we can achieve through collaboration and dedication to conservation,” Amanda Beal, commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry, said. “It reflects our shared commitment to preserving critical wildlife habitats and ensuring public access for recreation while maintaining the ecological integrity and beauty of the High Peaks region for generations to come. Furthermore, it moves us closer to the important conservation goals articulated in Maine’s climate action plan.”

Entities involved in the conservation effort include Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, and the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Maine Bureau of Parks and Land.

This project was supported financially by the Land for Maine’s Future program, grants from The Nature Conservancy in Maine, Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust, Maine Mountain Collaborative, Davis Conservation Foundation, component funds at Maine Community Foundation, the John Sage Foundation, the Fields Pond Foundation, L.L.Bean, and The Betterment Fund and private donations.

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