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January 9, 2017

Conservation groups team up to buy forestland in Piscataquis County

Courtesy of Forest Society of Maine Aerial photo shows the recently conserved Silver Lake lands, located in Piscataquis County.

The Forest Society of Maine has teamed up with the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Open Space Institute to acquire and conserve 4,358 acres of forestland surrounding Silver Lake and 12 miles of the West Branch of the Pleasant River in Piscataquis County.

The Forest Society of Maine achieved its goal of raising $4.35 million for the acquisition with the help of many partners and supporters. Leadership gifts were provided by the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, Jane’s Trust, the Knobloch Family Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Sweet Water Trust and the Wyss Foundation through the Open Space Institute.

The Open Space Institute filled a key role in facilitating project success and funding.

“For more than two decades, Open Space Institute has been on the ground helping conserve Maine’s recreational lands, pristine rivers and working forests,” Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO, said in a statement announcing the acquisition. “The Silver Lake – Pleasant River project builds on these past successes and will deliver unparalleled recreational opportunities for the people of Maine and those who value this extraordinary setting.”

Elliman said OSI’s contribution to the project would not have been possible without the Wyss Foundation’s support for its “Eastern Lands Initiative, which aims to protect wilderness landscapes up and down our nation’s East Coast.”

Mix of ecological and recreation values

The acquired lands are visited each year by thousands of people from Maine and afar for fishing, hiking, camping, paddling, hunting, snowmobiling and other recreational activities, according to a joint statement from the conservation groups.

The groups noted that the property’s campsites and access to the river and lake are amenities important to the region’s recreational and tourism economies.

“Public recreational access is now guaranteed forever,” the groups stated.

The project safeguards vital river habitat for Eastern brook trout and Atlantic salmon spawning, and habitat for American black duck, Canada lynx, Northern long-eared bat, wood turtle, bald eagle and many other species of state and national significance. The project also protects a 400-acre mature silver maple floodplain forest — one of the largest and best examples in Maine.

The newly conserved lands are adjacent to the historic Katahdin Iron Works and help to buffer this state-owned site. “The remarkable mix of ecological and recreational values found here made this a high priority project for us, especially as it is fills a key gap in the network of two million acres of already conserved lands in this region of Maine’s North Woods,” said Alan Hutchinson, executive director of the Forest Society of Maine.

Forestland now owned by AMC

With the acquisition complete, the Appalachian Mountain Club now owns these lands and the Forest Society of Maine holds a conservation easement on the property. The Silver Lake – Pleasant River lands are adjacent to AMC’s 70,000 acres of other conservation holdings in the area, which provide the focus for its Maine Woods Initiative, an innovative approach to conservation that combines outdoor recreation, resource protection, sustainable forestry, and community partnerships.

The Forest Society of Maine worked with Conservation Forestry — a New Hampshire-based timber investment firm and the owner of these lands since 2009 — to develop a conservation future for the property, recognizing the special ecological and recreational values found there.

“Silver Lake and the watershed of the West Branch of the Pleasant River are an ecological treasure trove of plant and animal life. We are honored to be the new stewards of these spectacular lands and waters, and are committed to their protection and accessibility for nature-based recreation,” said Walter Graff, senior vice president of the Appalachian Mountain Club. “This parcel will also allow us to expand our outreach to local youth by providing new and accessible water-based opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing,” Graff said.

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