You just bought 50,000 acres for $7

You just purchased 50,000 stunningly beautiful acres for $7. That’s not a typo. Each Maine resident contributed $7 to purchase an amazing list of our very best places – great places to hunt, spectacular places to fish, critical deer wintering areas and trout spawning grounds, farms, lake and pond frontage and access, snowmobile trails, important working waterfronts, and lots more.

We Mainers do drive a hard bargain! The $9 million we put up for these projects in 37 communities was matched by $24.8 million from 60 partners. Good deals!

Cold Stream photo by Jerry andMarcie Monkman

Cold Stream photo by Jerry andMarcie Monkman

These are the first awards from the Land for Maine’s Future Board in three years. “We believe that these grants will bolster tourism-related business, increase access for sportsmen, and enhance the state’s traditional natural resource-based economy,” said Tom Abello of The Nature Conservancy. He is so right.

The most spectacular purchase – especially for sportsmen – was the Cold Stream Forest Project in Somerset County. Purchased from Plum Creek, the project protects 8,153 acres including over 3000 acres of deer wintering area habitat north of The Forks.  It includes 30 miles of streams on a major tributary to the Kennebec River, and conserves more wild brook trout pond habitat than in the rest of Northern New England.

The LMF funds will match a substantially larger grant from the USDA Forest Service Forest Legacy Program.  Cold Stream Forest ranks #3 in the nation for the USFS Forest Legacy Program in 2014. The project ensures access for fishing hunting, snowmobiling, and continued timber supply to local mills, supporting jobs, wood supply, and outdoor recreation uses – all supporting Maine’s economy.

Having served on the Forest Legacy Program’s Advisory Board when the federal government launched the program, I can tell you that our state has benefitted more than any other from the program and funding.

Partners in the project were Trust for Public Land, Trout Unlimited, Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands and Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

I’ve been trying to find time to fish Cold Stream for the past year. This fall, I’m going to do it! And it will be all the more fun knowing that we own it.

Seboomook

In the Seboomook Expansion in Somerset County, we protected 10,215 acres northeast of Moosehead Lake, including 4,672 acres of deer wintering area and 800 acres of maple syrup production. This is an area where I enjoy moose, deer, and grouse hunting with my friend Ed Pineau who owns a camp at Northeast Carry on Moosehead Lake.

The property purchased by LMF is part of the large West Branch Conservation Easement lands to the north, and abuts the Plum Creek Moosehead Region Conservation Easement to the south.  It increases access to Canada Falls Lake, ensures a popular snowmobile trail connecting Pittston Farm to Jackman, and will enable additional ATV trails, in the Moosehead Lake region. Project partners were the Forest Society of Maine and Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.

Central Maine Sportsman’s Access Project

Love the name! Access for sportsmen and women are protected in this Somerset ad Waldo County project that also protects critical wildlife habitat. The 2883 acres, located in the towns of Burnham, Cambridge, Detroit, Emden and Ripley, protect 880 acres of deer wintering habitat, 4,000 feet of pond shoreline, wetland complexes, and rare plants and animals. The project increases access in the area of the state with the lowest concentration of land protected for public access coupled with the highest documented outdoor use, and was a partnership with Trust for Public Lands and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Kimball Pond

I’m particularly excited about this purchase. The Kennebec Highlands consists of 6,000 acres of public land in Belgrade, Rome, Vienna, and Mount Vernon, just 20 minutes from the Capitol and 10 minutes from my house. I spend a lot of time there hunting, fishing, berry picking, birding, and hiking.

Until now, the only access to the west side of the Highlands was over private land. This project purchased access on the west side along with access to Kimball Pond, a popular trout fishery, and was a partnership with Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance, and The Nature Conservancy.

The Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance led the long and successful effort to purchase, conserve, and improve the Kennebec Highlands, one reason I am proud to be a member of this organization.

Conclusion

Led by Chairman Bill Vail, former DIF&W Commissioner, every member of the LMF Board deserves special thanks today, along with LMF Executive Director Ed Meadows. In addition to Bill, LMF Board members are: Jim Gorman, Jr. (President of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine during much of my tenure there), Ben Emory, Norm Gosline, Neil Piper, and Jim Norris, along with Commissioners Pat Keliher, Walt Whitcomb, and Chandler Woodcock.

Give yourself a pat on the back too. Our support over the years for the Land for Maine’s Future Program has conserved many of the state’s very best places.

Check out the list of the 25 new projects on the LMF website, your gift to yourself and future generations, and put all of them on your bucket list for a visit.

This land is your land, this land is my land….

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. George also hosts, with Harry Vanderweide, a TV talk show called Wildfire, now in its 13th year and focused on hunting, fishing, environmental, and conservation issues. The show is owned and produced by Maine Audubon and seen on its website as well as on the Time Warner cable TV station throughout the state.