Maine officials on Monday announced the acquisition of more than 5,700 acres of land south of Millinocket in a deal that will protect an additional 2 miles of shoreline along Seboeis Lake while securing key snowmobile and ATV routes in the region.
Several years in the making, the $2.7 million deal means that nearly all of Seboeis Lake’s 19 miles of shoreline is owned by the state of Maine.
The 5,741-acre Lake View Plantation parcel will be added to the roughly 15,600-acre Seboeis Public Reserved Lands Unit, which is managed by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lakes for timber harvesting, outdoor recreation and wildlife. The Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation organization, worked with the state to arrange the acquisition from Bigelow Timber Corp. of Madison.
“It’s just a really nice property, and it is working forest,” said Bill Beardsley, commissioner of the Maine Department of Conservation.
Beardsley noted that Seboeis Lake — located between Millinocket and Milo — is almost at the geographic center of Maine, is on the edge of the North Woods and offers views of Mount Katahdin.
“So you’ve got something that is at the heart of Maine,” Beardsley said.
In addition to 2 miles of lake frontage, the property includes several snowmobile and ATV trails — including ITS 83 and 111 — that are popular with riders traveling in the region, making it a major interconnection point between Millinocket, the Lincoln region and central Maine.
The land also features miles of a proposed Katahdin Region Multi-Use Trail linking Millinocket with areas to the south and west.
“This purchase is what this region has been relying on to encourage trail connectivity to the ATV system to the south,” Paul Sannicandro, secretary of the Northern Timber Cruisers ATV and Snowmobile Club, said in a statement. “It is going to expand our recreational and economic opportunities.”
Seboeis Lake has been a priority for Maine’s conservation and outdoor recreation communities for about a decade. Like earlier acquisitions, the latest purchase was financed through a combination of federal, state and private funds. Work on the project began during the administration of Democratic Gov. John Baldacci and continued under Republican Gov. Paul LePage.
Nearly $2.2 million of the $2.7 million price tag paid to Bigelow Timber came from previously announced federal funding awarded to Maine through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Legacy program.
An additional $483,136 came from the Land for Maine’s Future program, which uses voter-approved bonds to preserve high-value forests, farmland and working waterfront areas.
Land for Maine’s Future’s role in Seboeis projects — both past and present — did not go unnoticed on Monday by organizations that are hoping to see the program’s now-depleted coffers replenished.
Last week, the Legislature’s budget-writing committee recommended sending a $5 million bond proposal for Land for Maine’s Future to voters as part of bond packages totaling $95 million. But while bond proposals for highway construction and other infrastructure projects appear to have stronger bipartisan support, some fear that not enough GOP lawmakers will vote for bonds supporting land conservation. LePage has said he does not support additional bonds at this time.
“There is a lot of LMF money in this project,” said Cathy Johnson, North Woods project director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “In two weeks, legislators are going to have an opportunity to vote for new money for the LMF program, which is currently out of money.”
The entire Seboeis Lake property managed by the Bureau of Parks and Lands features at least 15 campsites, including several on islands.
Members of Maine’s congressional delegation who helped secure the federal Forest Legacy funding for the project praised the announcement..
“It’s great to see the State of Maine continue its strong commitment to land conservation through collaboration with local interests,” U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud said in a statement. “State, local, and private partnership is the Maine way of maintaining working landscapes and recreational activities. This Seboeis Lake acquisition will continue to enhance outdoor recreation, promote economic development, and improve public access throughout the Katahdin region.”