BANGOR, ME – A conservation partnership, with the support of the Wyss Foundation, last week announced the permanent protection of 4,358 acres of pristine forested watershed land in the North Maine Woods. The lands, which include a 530-acre lake and 12 miles of river frontage, are critical to the region’s recreational and tourism economies and also safeguards vital forest habitat for species of state and national significance.
Visited by thousands of people every year for fishing, hiking, camping, paddling and hunting, the properties buffer Silver Lake, also known as Mattakeunk Pond; 12 miles of the West Branch of the Pleasant River; and the Katahdin Iron Works State Historic Site in Piscataquis County, Maine.
The conservation project was led the Forest Society of Maine, the Open Space Institute (OSI), and the Appalachian Mountain Club, with supportive funding from the Wyss Foundation.
The collaborative project builds on OSI’s ongoing efforts to conserve property in Maine, through both direct acquisition and in support of local land trust activity.
“For more than two decades, OSI has been on the ground conserving Maine’s recreational lands, pristine rivers and working forests. The Silver Lake project builds on this success and will deliver unparalleled recreational opportunities for the people of Maine and those who value this extraordinary setting,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s President and CEO. “OSI’s contribution to this project would not have been possible without the Wyss Foundation’s support for our Eastern Lands Initiative, which aims to protect wilderness landscapes up and down our nation’s east coast.”
The project also safeguards vital river habitat for brook trout and Atlantic salmon spawning, and habitat for American black duck, Canada lynx, Northern Long-eared bat, wood turtles, bald eagles, and many other species of state and national significance. The project additionally protects a 400-acre mature, silver maple flood plain forest, one of the largest and best examples in Maine.
“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.
The Forest Society of Maine worked with North Woods ME Timberlands, LLC—the owner of these lands since 2009—to develop a conservation future for the property, recognizing their special ecological and recreational values. With the acquisition complete the Appalachian Mountain Club now owns these lands, which are adjacent to their other holdings in the area, and the Forest Society of Maine holds a conservation easement on these newly conserved lands.
The Forest Society of Maine needed to raise $4.35 million for this acquisition. Success was made possible with the help of many Forest Society of Maine members and friends including leadership grants from Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, Jane’s Trust, the Knobloch Family Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, the Open Space Institute, and Sweet Water Trust. This support has resulted in permanently conserving more than 4,000 acres of woods and waters that are so special to many people and many species of wildlife.
The Katahdin Iron Works operated from 1843 – 1890 and employed 400 at its peak of operations. It used wood from these forestlands to operate its blast furnaces and kilns. Remnants of this operation can still be found. The area also became a popular tourist destination in the1890’s with the Silver Lake Hotel drawing visitors from across the country, attracted by the scenic setting and abundance of fish and wildlife. The hotel no longer stands, but the region’s beauty and natural resources persist and are now conserved for future generations.