Two Federal Grants Announced for Maine Forest Projects

January 19, 2012

Wolfe Tone, The Trust for Public Land, (207) 772-7424
Jeanne Curran, MDOC, (207) 287-3156

With attachment: FLP Fact Sheet (PDF)

Maps and photos of the two parcels are available and will be sent on request under separate email cover because of their large size.

Federal grants totaling $8.73 million have been awarded to the Maine Department of Conservation (MDOC) and will be used to conserve two unique forest properties in Franklin County, according to Gov. Paul LePage, The Trust for Public Land, and Maine's congressional delegation.

Most of the grant money from the U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program (FLP) - a sum of $7 million -- will allow the MDOC to purchase 11,800 acres on Crocker Mountain in the town of Carrabasset Valley. The lands are part of an existing working forest owned by Plum Creek, and include, in addition to working timberlands, important ecological and recreational features, including a segment of the Appalachian Trail, and opportunities for ATV and mountain biking trails that will complement and support the already robust recreation opportunities in the area.

This project was ranked as third for the nation by FLP for federal fiscal year 2012, officials said. The total project cost is $8.8 million.

The second Maine FLP award, $1.73 million for the Orbeton Stream project in Madrid Township, will allow the State to purchase a conservation easement of more than 5,808 acres of family-owned timber lands, ensuring continued use of the property as a working forest, protecting important natural resources, and continuing public access.

The property, owned by Linkletter Timberlands LLC of Athens, supplies wood fiber to Linkletter's pellet mill in Athens. The total project cost is $2.4 million. It was ranked 12th nationally officials said.

The two projects were the state's top priorities for the FY 2012 Forest Legacy Program funding, submitted for consideration in the fall of 2010.  The LePage Administration strongly supported the projects, which were submitted by the MDOC last July to the Land for Maine's Future Board and were awarded more than $800,000 toward the required federal match. The projects also were strongly supported by U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins (R-Maine) and U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud (D-2). In addition to the federal funds, project partners are securing $1 million in matching funds from other sources, including the Land for Maine's Future program.

"The Crocker Mountain initiative is further evidence that the State of Maine supports the private sector and the town of Carrabassett Valley in their vision of an international, four-season outdoor recreation destination," Gov. LePage said. "In the Orbeton Stream project, we are equally proud to team up with the Linkletter family in their working forests and pellet mill operations and commitment to providing public access to Maine people for trout fishing, ATV and snowmobiling, and backcountry recreation.

"These two projects exemplify my vision of a 21st century natural resource economy in Maine that weds conservation, public access and economic vitality," the Governor continued. "I take my hat off to the Linkletters, Plum Creek, the people of Carrabassett Valley and all the other participants who made this award possible."

"Maine has greatly benefited from the support of the Maine Department of Conservation, Maine's congressional delegation, and the U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program for these outstanding projects," said Wolfe Tone, The Trust for Public Land's Maine director. "We are very excited about the opportunity that these projects provide to ensure public access, continue sustainable timber harvesting, and enhance economic opportunities for local communities."

U.S. Sen. Snowe said, "This vital funding will make tremendous strides in conserving Maine's iconic natural resources, building upon the efforts of Maine's Department of Conservation. The Forest Legacy Program has consistently proven to be indispensable as we both protect crucial jobs in the forest industry and promote outdoor recreation in our state for Mainers and visitors alike."

"Maine's heritage is to share the outdoors and to respect other users," U.S. Sen. Collins said. "We reject the false choice of pitting the environment against the economy, because, here in Maine, the environment is the economy. They are inextricably linked. That is why I am a strong and long-time supporter of the Forest Legacy Program.

"This important program helps preserve working forests, while at the same time maintaining public access," the U.S. senator continued. "I am delighted that this funding will be used not only to help protect good jobs in our state, but also to contribute greatly to the effort to preserve some of the most beautiful land in Franklin County."

"Maine continues to be a leader in land conservation while maintaining working, sustainable forest landscapes through the Forest Legacy Program" U.S. Rep. Michaud said. "These two projects represent a significant opportunity to protect important ecological resources, preserve critical jobs in Maine's forest products industry and promote a variety of outdoor recreation activities for Franklin County." 

"Our family is excited about this announcement," said Robert Linkletter of Linkletter Timberlands LLC. "This conservation easement will help keep our employees working while guaranteeing a land base for future forest products.  As commercial forest landowners, we appreciate how the State of Maine, the U.S. Forest Service, and Maine's congressional delegation worked together to ensure a conservation solution that works for everyone."
 
The Crocker Mountain land, near the Sugarloaf ski resort, has exceptional economic, natural resource, and recreational value for the state. At almost 11,800 acres, it is the largest remaining working forest in the Carrabasset Valley. Franklin County has the highest percentage of workers in the forest products industry in Maine, meaning that jobs will be protected as a result of the acquisition. 

The land buffers a spectacular 10-mile section of the Appalachian Trail, and includes about three miles on snowmobile Route 115 of Maine's Interconnected Trail System (ITS), along with four miles of the state-sanctioned all-terrain vehicle trail system. Protecting the property from development also will guarantee access for other recreation, such as hunting, hiking, mountain biking, and cross county skiing.

Added to hiking, biking and skiing opportunities already developed at Sugarloaf, the Town of Carrabassett Valley, the MDOC's Bigelow Preserve, and Western Mountains Foundation Hut to Hut system, new trails envisioned for this property will support the local recreational economy by making this area an even more desirable recreation destination. 

BPL will pursue sustainable timber harvesting on the property, which will maintain local jobs and provide revenue for the bureau. With Forest Legacy Program funding now secured for Crocker Mountain, partners will look to raise the required 25 percent non-federal match to protect the property.

The Orbeton Stream property is owned and managed by Linkletter Timberlands LLC, a local family-run timber company that uses the fiber to supply its pellet mill, Maine's largest, directly supporting 40 employees. The company also supplies fiber throughout Franklin County and pellets throughout the region, including to the Jackson Laboratory biomass furnace. Protecting the 5,808-acre property will keep these state's forests in timber production and also ensure access for outdoor recreation.

The Orbeton property provides views of the Appalachian Trail and also includes a critical 6.4-mile section of snowmobile Route 84 of Maine's ITS system, which will now be available permanently for public use.

The entire Orbeton Stream parcel is premier native brook trout habitat and has been designated by the federal government as critical to the Atlantic salmon. In 2007, as a result of significant restoration efforts by the Maine Department of Marine Resources, salmon reared in the Orbeton watershed returned from the North Atlantic Ocean for the first time in more than 150 years. Conserving the Orbeton Stream property ensures a continued source of sustainably managed and certified forest products, as well as protects a strategically important parcel for outdoor recreation.

The Maine Department of Conservation is a natural resource agency whose bureaus oversee the management, development and protection of some of Maine's most special places, including 17 million acres of forestland, 10.4 million acres of unorganized territory, 48 parks and historic sites and more than 590,000 acres of public reserved land. For more information, go to: www.maine.gov/doc

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, is the nation's leader in creating local funds for conservation, and in creating parks around the nation.  TPL depends on the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations. In Maine, TPL has protected more than 138,000 acres. For more information, go to: www.tpl.org/maine.  

The USDA Forest Legacy Program, authorized by Congress in 1990 to keep intact natural and recreational resources of the nation's dwindling forests, supports state efforts to protect environmentally sensitive forest lands.  It provides federal money to states to protect threatened working forests and woodlands either through public purchase or conservation easements.  To date, the program has protected more than 2 million acres of forest lands across the country, including over 674,000 acres in Maine. For more information, go to: http://www.fs.fed.us/spf/coop/programs/loa/flp.shtml