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September 15, 2023

$15M deal will preserve forest, restore public access in North Woods

aerial of woods water sun Courtesy / Jamie Malcolm Brown, The Conservation Fund The Appalachian Mountain Club partnered with the Conservation Fund to purchase and protect Barnard Forest in Piscataquis County.

With the purchase of 29,000 acres of forestland in Piscataquis County for $15.2 million, two nonprofits hope to create new areas for public recreation, forest restoration and sea-run fish passage.

The Appalachian Mountain Club partnered with the Conservation Fund to buy and permanently protect the swath, known as Barnard Forest, from the Elliotsville Foundation, according to a news release.

The AMC purchased the northern half of the property outright. The Conservation Fund and the Malone Family Land Preservation Foundation acquired the southern portion of the property, giving AMC and the Conservation Fund time to raise the funds needed for AMC to assume full ownership. 

Initial funding for the project came from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the EJK Foundation and private donors.

Piscataquis County, with a population of 17,417, stretches from Maine’s geographic center through the North Woods and nearly to the Canadian border. It is home to Baxter State Park, Mount Katahdin and the 100-Mile Wilderness region.

The 100-Mile Wilderness is where the AMC has already protected over 100,000 acres of forest and fish habitat through the organization's Maine Woods Initiative, which works to advance habitat protection, recreation, education and sustainable forestry. The Barnard Forest abuts those woodland holdings. With the forest's addition, land under the Maine Woods Initiative will total nearly 130,000 contiguous acres.

At Barnard Forest, the AMC plans to restore fish habitats, benefiting threatened species such as native brook trout and Atlantic salmon. In addition, the club intends to provide public recreational access for the first time in nearly 20 years.

"The acquisition of Barnard Forest expands AMC's working model of our holistic approach to land management," said Nicole Zussman, president and CEO of the Appalachian Mountain Club. "Public recreation, habitat restoration and responsible forestry can — and should — work together to create healthy and resilient ecosystems."

Tom Duffus, vice president and Northeast representative for the Conservation Fund in Maine, said, "The Barnard Forest addition is an outstanding example of creating opportunities for public recreation, forest restoration and sea-run fish passage at a landscape-scale. The benefits to people, the economy and the climate of the combined conserved lands are unparalleled in the northern forest of New England.”

The Appalachian Mountain Club, headquartered in Boston, is the nation’s oldest conservation and recreation organization. The Conservation Fund is a nonprofit that works to protect land nationwide.

This is the second time in recent years that the two groups have partnered to increase the land protected through the Appalachian Mountain Club's Maine Woods Initiative. As part of its partnership with the Conservation Fund, the AMC recently finalized the purchase of the adjacent, nearly 27,000-acre Pleasant River Headwaters Forest for $18.5 million in 2022.

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