Midcoast Conservancy preserves community forest

Mar 23, 2020
Courtesy of: Anna Fiedler Musquash Pond wetlands recently added to Midcoast Conservancy's McLaughlin's Crossing Preserve.

Liberty — Between June 2019 and February 2020, Midcoast Conservancy conserved three properties totaling 474 acres in Liberty, expanding the McLaughlin’s Crossing Preserve between Chisolm Pond and Lake St. George State Park to create a community forest.

Protecting these parcels created a conserved habitat block of over 1100 acres, including over 2.5 miles of frontage on the Sheepscot River. Two of the parcels are along the Sheepscot River, helping keep the upper Sheepscot River undeveloped. The third borders Lake St. George State Park.

Protection of this parcel along Route 3 preserves the beautiful view of fields and forests from the road and Lake St. George. The properties can be accessed from Upper Hostile Valley Road and from Route 3. All three properties provide a critical outdoor recreation link to Lake St. George State Park.

Anna Fiedler, Midcoast Conservancy director of conservation, said, “These priority acquisitions were made possible by partnering with three very patient landowners, all of whom waited years for us to raise funds.” Two of the landowners sold their parcels at prices favorable to Midcoast Conservancy.

These lands are excellent habitat for native plants and animals, especially wildlife that require large areas, such as moose, coyotes, pileated woodpeckers, hawks, and migratory songbirds. Protection of this section of the Sheepscot River will also ensure high water quality by providing buffers from contaminants contained in runoff flowing into the Sheepscot River and Lake St. George. This will benefit spawning and rearing habitat for federally endangered Atlantic salmon and other coldwater fish.

In 2018, Midcoast Conservancy permanently preserved its first community forest, 1,000 acres at Hidden Valley in Jefferson. The McLaughlin’s Crossing project builds on those successes to link conserved lands across two watersheds. It creates a community forest with public access forever and helps secure the ecological health of the region.

Executive Director Jody Jones said, “We are thrilled about the long-term community benefits these lands will provide, including a permanent site for forest-based learning for K-12 students, a replicable model of sustainable forest management, and economic benefits to the region for ecotourism.”

Chris Schorn, Midcoast Conservancy senior land steward, said, “Hunting, fishing and hiking will be welcomed at the preserve, and we look forward to exploring options for public recreational uses. We want to work with the community to find ways for people to connect with the land, while also protecting biodiverse landscapes and resilient habitat for wildlife as our climate changes.”

These properties are part of Midcoast Conservancy’s approach to strategically conserving lands in the Midcoast region that provide the most benefit for wildlife, water quality, climate benefits, and recreation. Midcoast Conservancy Board Chairman Buck O’Herin said the acquisitions are part of a long-term vision to connect 10,000 acres of protected land along the upper Sheepscot River stretching from Lake St. George to Frye Mountain Wildlife Management Area. "This represents conservation on a scale that really matters for wildlife, and our climate,” he said.

Andy Bezon, Midcoast Conservancy’s director of community programs, is enthusiastic about how the conserved area can serve the community: “A portion of the land has the potential to be a permanent home for local community-based programs," Bezon said. "We're excited to get local schools and families outdoors and engaged on the land. Right now we're in the planning phase for network of footpath trails connecting all properties for hiking, running, and snowshoeing.”

This project was made possible by funding from U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Butler Conservation Fund, Davis Conservation Foundation, Fields Pond Foundation, Jane's Trust, John Sage Foundation, LL Bean Maine Land Trust Grant, Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust, William P. Wharton Trust, and private donors, including the Midcoast Conservancy board.

Midcoast Conservancy’s mission is to protect and promote healthy lands, waters, and communities through conservation, outdoor adventure, and learning. For more information, go to midcoastconservancy.org or call 389-5150.



Midcoast Conservancy board Chairman Buck O'Herin, Jay LeGore, Tom Opper and Executive Director Jody Jones at a celebration of the group's land protection.
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