MADRID TOWNSHIP, Maine — A 5,774-acre forested property in Franklin County has been permanently protected through The Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation group with one of its 30 offices located in Portland.
“Keeping forests as forests benefits all of us by safeguarding recreation and access important to Mainers, and as a source of timber to fuel the state’s economy,” said Wolfe Tone, Maine state director for The Trust for Public Land, in the group’s press release making the announcement.
The property is the largest remaining working forest parcel in Madrid Township and had been under threat of potential subdivision and development, according to the trust. It includes a 6.4-mile section of snowmobile routes 84 and 89, part of Maine’s Interconnected Trail System.
Protection of the property has long been sought by local snowmobile and all-terrain vehicle clubs, guides and hunters. The land will continue to produce timber and logging jobs and will be available for recreational purposes such as snowmobiling, fishing, hiking and hunting. Its protection creates a 77,000-acre block of conserved land in the High Peaks, according to the press release.
“This project is crucially important to public access in the High Peaks that will protect local investment in the Fly Rod Crosby Trail, Moose Loop ATV trail and Black Fly Loop snowmobile trail,” said Lloyd Griscom, a director of the High Peaks Alliance, in the press release.
“Protection of Orbeton Stream will ensure that a vital snowmobile and ATV corridor that connects the region’s communities and businesses will continue to be open to the public forever. These trails are critical to the economic development of these towns,” said Don Whittemore, member of the North Franklin Snowmobile Club and Narrow Gauge Riders ATV Club, in the press release.
The Orbeton Stream property is owned and managed for timber by Linkletter Timberlands, a local family-owned company, which uses the wood to help supply its pellet mill, supporting the
company’s 80 employees. The company also supplies fiber to all major mills in Franklin County. Linkletter sold the state of Maine a conservation easement on the property, which means Linkletter will continue to own and manage it, but it can never be subdivided or developed, according to the press release.
The easement cost $1.6 million, with $1.28 million of the money coming from the USDA’s Forest Legacy Program administered by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. The Forest Legacy Program is funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund and gets its money from offshore oil and gas revenue. Another $150,000 was from the Land for Maine’s Future Program and additional money was provided by the Open Space Institute, Wildlife Conservation Society, Fields Pond Foundation, Hopwood Charitable Trust, John Sage Foundation and many private donors.
“We’re so pleased to work with the state of Maine and our many partners to make sure these woods stay privately owned and managed,” said Tony Ferguson, director of the Forest Service Northeastern Area, in the press release. “The state remains a Forest Legacy Program leader with 716,000 acres protected, 85 percent of which remain in private hands. That ensures public access and benefits.”
U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, former Sen. Olympia Snowe and former Congressman Mike Michaud supported this project and are strong supporters of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, according to the press release.
Orbeton Stream is home to Atlantic salmon. Seven years ago, because of restoration work by the Maine Department of Marine Resources, salmon reared in the Orbeton watershed returned from the North Atlantic Ocean for the first time in more than 150 years.
The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Nearly 10 million people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. For more information on The Trust for Public Land, visit www.tpl.org.