AMC boosts north woods economy – and saves some sporting camps

DSCN3506The numbers are impressive. The Appalachian Mountain Club has invested $44 million in Piscataquis County since launching its Maine Woods Initiative in 2003. The economic impact for that county has totaled $16, and $22 for million for the Maine economy. And 71 jobs have been created by AMC’s Maine activities.

I’ve been especially pleased with AMC’s commitment to, and improvements to, it’s three Maine sporting camps. Medawisla Lodge and Cabins  is in the process of being renovated. I’ve visited the other two for wonderful experiences.

Linda and I visited Gorman-Chairback Lodge and Cabins a few winters ago, and wrote one of our travel columns about the experience. You can read that here.

One October, I took retired DIF&W Fisheries Division Director John Boland to Little Lyford Lodge and Cabins, for a fall fishing adventure. You can read that story here.

A new study prepared by David Vail, Adams-Catlin Professor of Economics Emeritus at Bowdoin College.  The study analyzed AMC’s activities and spending in the region and the spending of its overnight guests and program participants.

The Maine Woods Initiative directly and indirectly created 56 full-time equivalent jobs in Piscataquis County and 71 jobs statewide in 2014. Conservatively, it generated some employment for at least 150 people, or three percent of Piscataquis County’s private sector workforce.  AMC directly employs 26 full- time equivalent staff in the region.

Aside from lodging and program revenues collected by AMC, its Maine Wilderness Lodges guests spent nearly $157,000  with local businesses in 2014 on lodging, restaurant meals, guide services, and other purchases. AMC guests have spent more than $1.1 million in local communities since AMC reopened Little Lyford Lodge and Cabins in 2004.

By hiring local contractors and purchasing local building supplies wherever possible, 60 percent of AMC’s capital investment in lodge improvements has stayed within Piscataquis Country, according to the report.

AMC has permanently protected 70,000 acres of land in the region, open to the public for recreation and managed as ecological reserves, or for sustainable forestry. It has created a 120-mile trail network and operates Little Lyford and Gorman Chairback – both historic sporting camps – for biking, paddling, fly fishing, and skiing. They also host bird hunters in the fall at Little Lyford.

According to the report, operational spending has been on a steady upward path since 2005, exceeding $1 million in 2010 and $1.5 million in 2014. Expenditures are certain to grow still further with the re-opening of Medawisla Lodge and Cabins and expanded trails and programming in the Roach Ponds area.

AMC’s Maine Woods Initiative is an innovative approach to land conservation that combines outdoor recreation, resource protection, sustainable forestry, and community partnerships. It seeks to address the ecological and economic needs of the Maine Woods by supporting forest products jobs and traditional recreation, creating new multi-day recreational opportunities for visitors and attracting new nature-based tourism to the region.

Writing in the introduction of the report, AMC Senior Vice President Walter Graff, who leads MWI, says, “…[W]e are proud of what we have accomplished but also recognize that our vision is long-term. True success will be measured over the long term by the generations of visitors and citizens of the region benefitting from a closer connection to the outdoors resulting in a healthier and more economically diverse community.”

Citing the importance of the Moosehead/100-Mile Wilderness region as “a prime nature-based tourism destination,” Graff wrote, “AMC will use the findings of this report to better leverage local community and economic impacts, but it may be useful to others who seek to evaluate whether the MWI is or could be a model for conservation and community development in other rural areas. We welcome inquiries and encourage discussion along these lines.”

The full report can be found at The study was funded by the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, which also provided funding for the expansion of the local recreational trail network.

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,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.