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January 11, 2018

Forest Society of Maine completes 100-Mile Wilderness conservation project

Courtesy / Forest Society of Maine, Ericka Kauffman
Courtesy / Forest Society of Maine, Ericka Kauffman
A view of White Cap Mountain, which is among the scenic landmarks that will be conserved in the region known as the 100-Mile Wilderness through a conservation project led by The Forest Society of Maine.

About the Gulf Hagas – White Cap conservation project

The project conserves the view from 11 miles of the Appalachian Trail corridor in the region known as the 100-Mile Wilderness; enhances public access to campsites, hiking trails, Gulf Hagas, the Katahdin Iron Works State Historic Site, and a segment of the popular Interconnected Trail System for snowmobiles.

It also protects habitat of Eastern brook trout and salmon and maintains productive forestland to help Pine State Timberlands stay competitive and continue employing hundreds of Mainers.

White Cap Mountain in Maine's North Woods has long been revered by hikers such as Karin Tilberg, the new executive director of the Forest Society of Maine.

"It's a very open summit and it's breathtaking," she told Mainebiz in an interview about a milestone conservation project near Gulf Hagas and White Cap that has just been completed. It permanently conserves thousands of acres of productive forestland and public access to popular recreation spots for hiking, fishing and hunting.

To complete the project, the Forest Society of Maine raised $4.4 million and Pine State Timberlands donated the high-elevation lands. Other funding includes grants from the Forest Legacy Program of $1.7 million and $325,000 from the Land for Maine's Future program. Additional gifts were provided by the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, the Knobloch Family Foundation, the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.

"This is an area where people have been able to camp and enjoy family vacations for decades, and generations in some cases," Tilberg said. "To hold onto these opportunities for families is a pleasure."

She said the conservation project was completed after more than four years of talks with the Maine-based forestland owner, Pine State Timberlands, the state Bureau of Parks and Lands and the Maine Appalachian Land Trust.

Those discussions began with a "quiet conservation" initiated by Pine State Timberlands about developing a conservation future for land that wasn't suitable for forest harvesting, in what Tilberg called a "very creative and bold move" by the landowner.

While it took a while to get over the finish line as with any major conservation project, Tilberg said it was "so worth the effort" and is a win-win for the people of Maine and future generations of Mainers.

"It is a wonderful example of how programs such as the Forest Legacy Program and Land for Maine's Future Program can bring economic benefits for forestland owners, outdoor recreation businesses and the people of Maine," Tilberg said. "The project lands support important fish and wildlife habitat and have been enjoyed for generations."

'Full plate' for 2018

Tilberg, who succeeded the late Alan Hutchinson as executive director of the Forest Society of Maine, said the organization has a "full plate" for 2018 and looks forward to closing on a number of other long-term projects.

She also had these words of encouragement for other conservation-minded forest owners: "We are here as a resource to work with landowners that may want to conserve forests, especially if they're interested in owning the land and maintaining some for forest management."

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