Land conservation success stories have dotted the state this year


The Downeast Lakes Community Forest, one of the largest community forests in the country, was expanded in 2021 and now covers 57,693 acres.. Courtesy of Downeast Lakes Land Trust

Each year, conservation groups in Maine work to protect tracts of land for recreation, access, wildlife and, more recently, to stem the effects of climate change by creating open land corridors to help maintain biodiversity.

One of the biggest conservation stories of 2021 happened when the state the legislature approved $ 40 million for the future of Land For Maine. The program, launched in 1987, has helped improve the quality of life for residents of Maine by permanently protecting the state’s woodlands and waters and their access.

This was just one of the conservation success stories in Maine over the past 12 months. Here are several others:

The Appalachian Mountain Club plans to protect the upper reaches of the Pleasant River. Photo by Jerry Monkman


A significant milestone was taken in October when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded $ 4.1 million to the State of Maine for the Appalachian Mountain Club, one of several partners working to raise $ 25 million for purchase 26,740 acres outside of Greenville. This earth approximately 75,000 acres owned by AMC.

The vast strip of land east of Moosehead Lake is significant because it includes the headwaters of the west and middle arms of the Pleasant River, where Atlantic salmon began returning to spawn in 2016.

More than $ 22 million has been raised together by conservation partners, including AMC and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, according to Steve Tatko, director of conservation and land management at AMC.

Now the protection of these sources for an iconic endangered species is in sight, Tatko said. And The return of the salmon to the Pleasant River means that it migrates again – as it did centuries ago – 130 miles from Penobscot Bay to the woods near Moosehead Lake.

“This has been happening for a few generations. We have to capitalize on the moment and try to right the wrong, ”Tatko said.

The Crooked River headwater easement helps maintain water quality and carbon sequestration. Photo of the clean waters of Sebago


Larry Stifler and his wife, Mary McFadden, put 12,268 acres of their land in western Maine into a conservation easement this year. This is the last achievement of the couple who realized in 1978 that they wanted to preserve the earth together. After buying their first plot, they continued to buy land around. Twenty years later, they had laid out trails on the ground to accommodate the public – worth 70 miles.

“We thought we would do it in our will. Then we thought, why don’t we just do it now? Said McFadden, 71, of the easement they created with help from the Conservation Fund, Mahoosuc Land Trust and Sebago Clean Waters.

McFadden and Stifler, 81, permanently protected 6 miles of the Crooked River – the largest tributary of Sebago Lake – seven ponds and 11 mountains.

The Conservation Fund set up a series of grants to raise $ 2.21 million to purchase the easement. But it was a good deal.

“It’s worth about three times that total value,” said Tom Duffus of the Conservation Fund. “These landscapes of western Maine are so important in mitigating climate change.”

The Downeast Lakes Community Forest is now 57,693 acres. Photo courtesy of Downeast Lakes Land Trust


The Downeast Lakes Community Forest was already one of the largest community forests in the country at 55,678 acres. The Downeast Lakes Land Trust, along with the Trust for Public Land and the Forest Society of Maine, has expanded its size this year.

The addition of 2,015 acres prevented the development of dozens of waterfront lots on Lake Sysladobsis and includes 2 miles of shoreline on the Great Lake as well as first-time boat access to nearby Horseshoe Lake.

The $ 2.1 million acquisition was partially funded with $ 710,000 from Land For Maine’s Future, making it one of the first projects to close since the LMF repayment. It was also funded by federal grants and private donations, said the Trust’s Betsy Cook.

Local residents are involved in decisions about the stewardship of community forest lands. And the Downeast Community Forest is located in an area rich in ecotourism offerings. Grand Lake Stream has the highest number of registered Maine guides per capita in the state. The new plot offers fishing, camping, hiking and a water course for paddling.


Significant land acquisitions are not always about protection against development. More recently, successful examples of land conservation have focused on returning land to indigenous peoples.

Last spring, the Passamaquoddy tribe repurchased 140 acres of their ancestral territory on the largest island of Big Lake in Washington County, known to the Passamaquoddy as Kci Monosakom. The island was originally known as Pine Island, or Kuwesuwi Monihq.

First Light, a coalition of conservation advocates, and The Nature Conservancy worked with the Wabanaki community to help the Passamaquoddy tribe redeem the island.

“After its sale (years ago), the Passamaquoddy tribe was banned from entering the island. The tribe felt this loss of land was an injustice, ”Indian Township Chief William Nicholas said in a press release last spring. He added: “There is no doubt that the Ancestors are jumping all over there.”


Since the start of the pandemic, Maine state parks have settled in new attendance records in 2020 (3.1 million visitors) and again in 2021 (3.3 million and more).

So, the acquisition of 50 acres of Pond Cove Island at Rogue Bluff State Park near Machias this fall was a fitting addition to the state park system. The island has 2 miles of winding shoreline and pebble beaches. The isolated campsite is planned for this.

The financing of the $ 525,000 acquisition was sourced in part from the LMF program with assistance from the Maine Coast Heritage Trust.

While the current increase in outdoor use has made the acquisition exciting, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry has been keen to purchase the island for many years. Maine Coast Heritage Trust stepped in as interim owner of the island while the department worked on the acquisition.

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