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Updated: September 20, 2023

$4.9M land deal will protect habitat, promote recreation in Aroostook County

water with sky reflection Courtesy / The Conservation Fund The Reed Deadwater/Juniper Brook property is the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s largest-ever wildlife management area purchase.

The state will create a wildlife management area from the purchase of 6,326 acres of land in northern Maine for $4.9 million.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife acquired the land, known as the Reed Deadwater/Juniper Brook property, from the Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit. The deal is the largest-ever such land purchase for MDIFW in the agency’s history.

“Our work with the state to protect this land secures significant deer wintering habitat as well as an ideal flatwater for families to paddle,” said Tom Duffus, the fund’s vice president and northeast representative, based in Freeport. 

The acreage can also be used by hunters, anglers, kayakers, canoers and others, he added.

The Conservation Fund purchased the property in 2022 from Lakeville Shores Inc. through its Working Forest Fund program plus a loan from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. The Working Forest Fund program is dedicated to mitigating climate change, strengthening rural economies and protecting natural ecosystems through the permanent conservation of at-risk working forests. 

To buy the property, MDIFW used funding from the Land for Maine’s Future program and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration program.

To help ensure the property was protected from the potential for mining, Brookfield Private Equity Holdings LLC and the J.M. Huber Corp. agreed to gift their respective mineral rights on the land to the fund so those rights could be reunited with the land, now under state ownership.

The sale price to MDIFW represented the Conservation Fund’s total costs on the project, including the 2022 acquisition, the property’s outstanding mineral rights, a right-of-way and soft costs such as legal fees, Duffus told Mainebiz.

“For your readers with small children who like to go out paddling, this is instant gratification — it’s really spectacular,” Duffus said. 

Plans for the future include improving a small parking lot there, he added.

“It’s a part of Maine that not many people get to,” he continued. “This is east of Lincoln so it’s pretty accessible, but it’s a direction not many people go. They either take the highway to Houlton or Downeast or to Baxter. But they go by this spot. It's great to have a state presence right there.”

It’s also next to the 32,400-acre Reed Forest, on the Mattawamkeag River in Aroostook County, that the fund acquired in partnership with tech giant Apple in 2015. 

The recent acquisition — located in Aroostook County within an hour’s drive of Lincoln, Houlton and Millinocket — was highlighted by MDIFW for conservation of wildlife habitat and opening to public recreation.

“The Reed Deadwater Project is unique due to both its size and scope, and its benefits as a wildlife management area are countless,” said MDIFW Commissioner Judy Camuso. “It contains over 3,000 acres of historic deer wintering habitat, which will be protected and enhanced, not only providing deer with winter cover but benefiting an array of other upland wildlife as well.”

Camuso added, “With more and more people enjoying the outdoors, and climate change impacting Maine’s landscape, protecting natural areas such as this has incredible benefits for Maine, its people and our wildlife.”

The MDIFW said it would create a deer-focused management plan to preserve and enhance deer wintering grounds, while protecting both fish and wildlife habitat. The Reed Deadwater also contains an eccentric bog, a rare type of ecosystem, and the wetlands provide abundant wading bird and waterfowl habitat. 

Additionally, it contains globally rare and state threatened Tomah mayflies. Macwahoc Stream flows through the deadwater and contains a population of threatened brook floater mussels, and the stream is in Atlantic salmon critical habitat.

Since its founding in 1985, the Conservation Fund has protected over 490,000 acres in Maine.

Last week, the Conservation Fund and the Appalachian Mountain Club finalized a deal to buy and permanently protect the 29,000-acre Barnard Forest in Piscataquis County.

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