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August 13, 2020

Franklin County land conservation effort gets boost from outdoors media company

Courtesy / High Peaks Alliance The High Peaks Alliance and Trust for Public Land are working to buy the 215 acres surrounding Shiloh Pond, In Kingfield, and have gotten help this week from the MeatEater outdoor recreation company.
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MeatEater Inc., an outdoor lifestlyle company based in Montana, has joined the effort to conserve Shiloh Pond, in Kingfield, as public conservation land.

MeatEater is hosting a public auction this week to help meet the cost of buying the 215-acre parcel, an effort that's been underway since last year by the High Peaks Alliance, town of Kingfield and Trust for Public Land.

The Bozeman, Mont., company, founded by writer and TV personality Steve Rinella, has a podcast and TV shows that promote fishing, hunting and other outdoor recreation. It also advocates for land conservation, and the auction is the first project in MeatEater's new Land Access Initiative program.

The town, with help from High Peaks Alliance, has been working to conserve Shiloh Pond in partnership with the Trust for Public Land. The trust has a purchase and sale agreement on the property, with a selling price of $355,000. The land would be given to the town, and would be the northern Franklin County town's first conservation land. The High Peaks Alliance is a nonprofit that works to conserve land and promote conservation in western Maine's high peaks region.

The parcel is off Route 27, north of Kingfield, and close enough to Sugarloaf Mountain and Saddleback ski areas to be attractive to developers, those who support the conservation effort have said. The 215 acres include 68.2 acres of wetlands, a 1.98-acre pond and 20-acre Shiloh Pond, which is home to a population of naturally reproducing Eastern brook trout, as well as loons, shorebirds, moose, black bears, whitetail deer and ruffed grouse.

The conservation effort would include allowing fishing and hunting on the property, which is what caught the eye of MeatEater.

'Open to the public forever'

"Kingfield sits on the edge of the iconic north woods, an area long considered valuable to both resident and transient outdoors people," MeatEater says on its land acquisition webpage. "Fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, and hiking (the area borders the Appalachian Trail) bring a steady stream of recreators to this area from Boston, New York, and cities across the Northeast.

"Mainers take pride in the fact that big landowners such as timber companies have traditionally not posted their properties, sometimes for generations," the webpage says. "Now, however, this is starting to change as new owners move in, and more and more private property is being posted. All of a sudden, Maine’s 90% private land composition has a whole new meaning."

The project is the first in the company's new Land Access Initiative program. "We want to use our Land Access Initiative funds to keep Shiloh open to the public forever, making sure that folks in the region have a great place to fish, hunt and recreate for generations to come," the webpage says.

"It’s such an honor that both MeatEater and the Trust for Public Land have recognized the value and importance of protecting Shiloh Pond for the community of Kingfield,” said Brent West, executive director of the High Peaks Alliance. “This unique pond has been a go-to fishing spot for brook trout for the locals for generations, and access has always been granted by a private landowner.

"That’s why when this parcel came onto the market, [High Peaks Alliance] immediately began working with the local community to protect access to this property, for all current uses, in perpetuity.”

The High Peaks Alliance originally contacted the trust about the project, which kicked off a series of meetings with the town looking at costs, recreational uses, management implications and more. The project was awarded a Maine Natural Resource conservation program grant for the full purchase price, but money must be raised for transaction costs, management by the town and road improvements.

During the town meetings there has been interest in improving the roads, access to the water and adding trails, according to the High Peaks Alliance.

The Shiloh Pond auction, which runs through Sunday, is offering the boat from Season 1 of MeatEater's "Das Boat" fly-fishing TV series, as well as packages offering sporting and outdoors equipment.

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