Partnership to Protect Maine Coastal Forests Launches

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The Conservation Fund's purchase of 17,881 acres provides time for implementation of permanent conservation strategies that support recreational access and local economies

BANGOR, Maine—A collaborative effort between The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, New England Forestry Foundation, Blue Hill Heritage Trust and Downeast Salmon Federation will provide opportunities to conserve more than 17,000 acres of forestland to protect wildlife habitat, ensure future recreational access and support the economies of nearby coastal communities.

The Maine Coastal Forest Partnership celebrated a major milestone with The Conservation Fund’s purchase of 17,881 acres in Hancock and Washington Counties on May 1. The Fund’s acquisition provides the time and opportunity to secure funding to permanently conserve large, ecologically important forestland.

“Working forests, coastal landscapes, and aquatic habitats define Maine’s environment, communities, economy and way of life,” said Tom Duffus, Vice President and Northeast Representative for The Conservation Fund. “Through the Maine Coastal Forest Partnership we are ensuring that forestland of community- and state-wide importance will always remain as forests, and by working together we can implement permanent conservation solutions that meet the needs of people, protect wildlife habitat and provide economic benefits.

Composed of three distinct properties, the lands will ultimately be conveyed to local conservation partners for perpetual protection and management. The partners now turn their collective attention to raising the funds to complete their acquisitions.     

·         The 13,799-acre Spring River-Narraguagus Forest property in Hancock County will be acquired by The Nature Conservancy. 
·         The 2,070-acre Venture Brook Forest property in Washington County will be acquired by the New England Forestry Foundation.
·         The 2,012-acre Meadowbrook Forest property in Hancock County will be acquired by Blue Hill Heritage Trust.

The Conservation Fund acquired the lands from H.C. Haynes, Inc., through its Working Forest Fund® program, which enables the protection of large working forests across the country from conversion and fragmentation. During its temporary ownership, The Conservation Fund will work with each organization to sustainably manage the forestland for the improvement and protection of both forest and aquatic resources, while maintaining current leases and public recreational uses. The Conservation Fund will continue to pay property taxes.

About the land

Spring River-Narraguagus Forest
Spanning 13,799 acres, the Spring River-Narraguagus Forest property in Hancock County is adjacent to The Nature Conservancy’s 9,700-acre Spring River Preserve. Conservation of the Spring River-Narraguagus Forest will help maintain a forested connection between the Downeast coast and Maine's north woods, helping protect habitat for wide-ranging wildlife and allow for species to move in response to a changing climate. The property includes 3.75 miles of lakeshore on Narraguagus Lake, one of the significant headwaters of the West Branch of the Narraguagus River, as well as two miles of frontage on the north side of Spring River, seven miles of frontage on the West Branch, and 46 miles of interior tributary streams. This land is important as a buffer for high value aquatic habitat that supports native brook trout and salmon fisheries - and provides public access for fishing and canoeing.

“The forests, wetlands, and rivers of the Spring River–Narraguagus Forest property provide important wildlife habitats,” said Mark Berry, Forest Program Director of The Nature Conservancy in Maine. “This is a great addition to one of Downeast Maine's most outstanding outdoor recreation destinations. Our work isn’t done. We look forward to working with The Conservation Fund and Maine Coast Heritage Trust to secure the necessary funding to permanently conserve the property for future generations.”

“Maine Coast Heritage Trust is focused on the conservation of the Narraguagus River because of its importance to costal fisheries and the people and wildlife that depend on these fisheries,” said Betsy Ham, Director of Land Protection for the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. “This project, which, if successful, will conserve 12 miles of river and lake frontage flowing directly into the Narraguagus is extremely important to the health of the entire river and we are pleased to be supporting The Nature Conservancy in this effort.”

Venture Brook Forest
Located in Washington County, the 2,070-acre Venture Brook Forest property will be acquired by New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF). The property protects water quality and habitat for brook trout and Atlantic salmon, and supports vital white-tail deer wintering habitat. This property will be managed as a working forest, which will help maintain forest jobs and provide fiber for local mills.

“We’re excited to work with The Conservation Fund and other partners to collectively protect this critically important forestland, and to show the many benefits well-managed working forests can provide,” said Bob Perschel, Executive Director of New England Forestry Foundation. “Venture Brook will give us the opportunity to implement our strategic approach to sustainable forestry in a new landscape, with a particular focus on protecting wildlife habitat, producing sustainable wood products, and offering recreational opportunities.”

NEFF will work with the local community to manage the land for both recreational and environmental benefits, while continuing sustainable working forest practices that prioritize the long-term health of forests. The property will be kept open for recreational uses including hunting, fishing, trapping and snowmobiling on the existing trail through the property.

“Venture Brook has been enjoyed by many sportsman spanning several decades,” said  Bill Robinson, resident of Edmunds Township. “Outdoor enthusiasts have fished, hunted, trapped and snowmobiled on this property. Learning about The Conservation Fund's purchase and NEFF’s future stewardship of this property and allowing outdoors men and women to enjoy this property is welcome news to all who are familiar and may be new to this land."

Meadowbrook Forest
The 2,012-acre Meadowbrook Forest property in Hancock County offers more than nine miles of roads through the woods, providing ideal recreational access for bikers and stroller walkers. Blue Hill Heritage Trust (BHHT) will acquire the land, a vital link in a documented north-south wildlife corridor, once funding from the National Coast Wetlands Conservation Grant Program, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, becomes available.

“No matter what your specific interest in conservation is—whether it's recreation, hunting, wildlife or habitat protection—this property will be tremendously important,” said Hans M. Carlson, Executive Director of BHHT. “It represents a kind of big-block protection that just does not happen on the Maine coast much these days. We are very excited, and very grateful to TCF for helping all of us to succeed.”

The Trust plans to manage the Meadowbrook Forest as a demonstration forest, providing educational opportunities for local landowners interested in forest management practices, as well as public access for hunting and other traditional uses.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect nearly 8 million acres of land, including over 440,000 acres in Maine

About The Nature Conservancy
Since the chapter’s founding in 1956, The Nature Conservancy has helped to protect over 1.7 million acres in Maine. Our forest program seeks to conserve forests that are essential to Maine’s economy and quality of life and globally significant ecologically and for carbon sequestration in a changing climate. Learn more at www.nature.org/maine. For more information about the Spring River-Narraguagus Forest contact Mark Berry, 207-607-4856, mark.berry@tnc.org.

About Maine Coast Heritage Trust
Maine Coast Heritage Trust is a statewide land conservation organization committed to protecting the character of Maine. Since 1970, Maine Coast Heritage Trust has helped conserve more than 150,000 acres in Maine, from the Isles of Shoals to Cobscook Bay, including more than 300 entire coastal islands. For more information, visit www.mcht.org.

About New England Forestry Foundation
Founded in 1944, New England Forestry Foundation pursues innovative programs to advance conservation and sustainable forestry throughout New England. In partnership with land owners, we have conserved more than 1.1 million acres of forest, including one out of every three acres of forestland protected in New England since 1999. We also own and manage more than 140 community forests across the region. Learn more at www.newenglandforestry.org. For more information about the Venture Brook Forest contact Will Brune, 207-751-5299, wbrune@newenglandforestry.org.

About Blue Hill Heritage Trust (BHHT)
BHHT is a nationally accredited nonprofit, membership-based land conservation organization founded in 1985 by residents of the Blue Hill Peninsula in coastal Maine. We work to conserve the unique landscape of our peninsula: pristine shores, blueberry-covered hills, working farms, wetlands, forests, ponds, and breathtaking views. To date, Blue Hill Heritage Trust has protected over 9600 acres of land that will be forever protected for its recreational, scenic beauty, and historical importance. For more information about the Meadowbrook Forest contact Hans M. Carlson, 207-374-5118,
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