Frenchville grants 120-acre nature reserve for forestry education and recreation



FRENCHVILLE, Maine – Off the back roads of Frenchville, 120 acres of woodland, fields and wetlands are now forever protected from development.

With a grant of $ 55,500 from the Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program, Frenchville placed a conservation easement on a piece of tax-acquired property that the University of Maine at Fort Kent and the St. John Valley Technology Center used. for forestry and ecological research. .

It is also the only public land in the city that has walking and cycling trails that do not allow the use of ATVs or other motorized vehicles.

Maine is one of the most private states in the nation – only about 10 percent of all land in the state is public. Although northern Maine remains relatively undeveloped even on private land, the easement will prevent any future development and subdivision of the conservation property, leaving it in its natural state for the use of future generations.

Steve Young walks through a field that is part of the 120 acre conservation area in Frenchville. Students grow milkweed, red oak and apple trees in the field, but the rest will grow in the wild. Credit: Hannah Catlin / St. John Valley Times

Frenchville has owned the land for years, and Steve Young, a wildlife biologist and expert in habitat management, mapping and maintenance since 2006. Young is with the Upper St. John River Association, which is a land management and land trust organization in far north Maine. .

The process of obtaining the conservation easement began in 2009, when Frenchville City Manager Philip Levesque gave Young the green light to seek funds to protect the parcel of land which is now the only public conservation in the nature of Frenchville.

“Our goal is to maintain all ecosystems, to maintain biodiversity and things like that,” Young said. “We are trying to promote [the St. John Valley’s] wood as wood for habitat – not for fiber.

Young worked with local students to study the flora and fauna already present on the property – creating maps to track species growth and competition in different parts of the land – as well as planting new wildlife. Student-planted milkweed, red oak and apple plants grow in the few acres of land bordering the property.

A sign indicating a nature trail through the Frenchville conservation lands. Credit: Hannah Catlin / St. John Valley Times

Bears, moose, hawks and even a rare species of indoor sandpiper have all been sighted on the property. One of the many nesting boxes in the conservation area is usually run over by one of the forest’s largest dwellers – Young suspects a bear.

As an educational tool, hands-on experience is particularly useful for students studying forestry, Young said.

“It puts into perspective how long it takes,” Young said. “If you cut cedar, it will probably be 200 years before you see it again.”

The dark skies of Frenchville Observatory is also parked on the property, at the end of a stony dirt road overlooking the estate. The Upper St. John River Association is measuring light pollution levels at this location in hopes of certifying the observatory with an official dark sky designation.

Frenchville City Manager David Cyr received a check for $ 55,500 from the Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program which finalized the easement on the land. Cyr said it’s good to know the area will always be a place for Frenchville residents to study and enjoy nature.

A small red oak seedling sprouted from one of the many acorns planted by students in the University of Maine forestry program in Fort Kent. Credit: Hannah Catlin / St. John Valley Times

While the income is a nice addition to the city’s budget, Cyr said that wasn’t necessarily the intention when his predecessors called on Young to help preserve the land years ago. The fact that Young held on for over a decade to see the project come to fruition is remarkable in itself.

“An inferior mortal would have given up long ago,” Cyr said.

The land conservation area remains open to the public.


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