10,000 Acres of Stowe Mountain and Robinson Peak Lands Protected

NEWRY AND RILEY TOWNSHIPS: More than 10,000 acres of land on Stowe Mountain and Robinson Peak, both identified as conservation priorities by the State of Maine’s Bureau of Parks & Lands, have been protected, The Trust for Public Land and the Bureau announced today. Conservation of the Newry and Riley Township properties in Oxford County stave off development threats, ensure continued sustainable harvesting, protect important forest habitat, secure permanent public access, and protect the Grafton Loop Trail corridor linking to the Appalachian Trail.

Governor John E. Baldacci said, “One of the most important legacies we are leaving for future generations is the permanent conservation of land. The hard work of many people and the generosity of major donors has expanded protection near Grafton Notch, one of Maine’s gems.”

At the request of the State of Maine’s Bureau of Parks & Lands (BPL), the Maine office of The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, facilitated the purchase of a conservation easement for 3,363 acres in Newry, adjacent to more than 33,000 acres of public land including Grafton Notch State Park.

In Riley Township, west of Bethel, BPL received a donated conservation easement protecting 6,730 acres around Robinson Peak from LBA Forest Stewardship Initiative, an investment company created by Lowell Blake & Associates, a Boston-based investment management company that specializes in ethical investments and has been involved in other Maine land conservation efforts.

The state of Maine recommended the Grafton Notch-Stowe Mountain property in Newry as a top U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program (FLP) priority in 2007 for funding consideration by Congress. With the support of U.S. Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and Congressman Michael Michaud the project received $1.11 million in FLP funds. In addition to the federal funds, project partners secured nearly $700,000 in matching funds. This includes $196,800 from the Land for Maine’s Future Program and a $500,000 contribution created as a result of TransCanada’s Kibby Wind Power Project, a windpower generation project approximately 50 miles away.

“I am extremely pleased with the announcement today that 10,000 acres have been preserved in the Grafton Notch region, which will maintain Oxford County as a tremendous recreational destination,” said Senator Olympia J. Snowe. “I worked to secure funding for the Stowe Mountain conservation through the Forest Legacy Program because of the strong support of the Newry community and I am ecstatic that this community based conservation effort will preserve hiking, camping, and trout fishing for generations.”

“I am proud to support the Forest Legacy Program and am thrilled that more than 10,000 acres of land on Stowe Mountain and Robinson Peak will now be permanently protected,” said Senator Susan Collins. “Maine’s beautiful Mahoosuc region is extremely popular with local residents, outdoor enthusiasts, and sportsmen. Conservation of this land will ensure that its recreational opportunities, wildlife habitats, and scenic beauty are preserved for future generations. This project reflects Maine’s steadfast commitment to environmental stewardship.”

“With most of Maine’s woods being privately owned, the state of Maine and its non-profit partners have been working to protect critical areas,” said U.S. Representative Mike Michaud. “In the past five years, these efforts have resulted in the protection of valuable natural resources, public access to renowned recreation lands, and continued harvesting of timber resources in a sustainable fashion. I look forward to continuing this work with the delegation and all of the partners involved.”

The protected land on Stowe Mountain, located west of scenic Route 26, is central to one of New England’s premier year-round tourist destinations, including the adjacent Sunday River Ski Resort.

Wolfe Tone, Maine state director for The Trust for Public Land, said, “The conservation easement on Stowe Mountain supports careful state stewardship of forested habitats, sustainable timber harvesting important for the local economy, vital watersheds, riparian habitat, scenic views, and public access for snowmobiling and trails. This is an extraordinary resource we needed to protect. We are fortunate to have assembled such a strong partnership capable of attracting the federal, state, and private commitments needed to make this success possible.”

“When TransCanada makes decisions, we carefully consider the needs of the environment and the communities that are our neighbors,” said Corey Goulet, Vice President of Energy Projects. “We are very pleased to be a part of protecting special places, like the Mahoosucs, for future generations to enjoy.”

Earlier in the year forest conservation efforts in the Mahoosucs region were boosted by the donation of the Robinson Peak conservation easement in Riley Township, protecting 6,730 acres. The Robinson Peak property, visible from the Appalachian Trail, supports most of the upper watershed for Larry Brook-a popular trout fishing destination-and conserves high elevation forests.

Jim Lowell, a founder of Lowell Blake & Associates stated that the Robinson Peak conservation easement donation was made possible because, “the firm’s clients want their investments to serve as a positive force for conservation.” The firm’s previous timber investments in Maine also included extensive conservation measures that Lowell said, “demonstrate that you can make a profit from forest land investments while still managing the trees in a sustainable manner and protecting the land for the long-term.”

Both the Stowe and Robinson easements have been added to BPL’s Mahoosuc Unit, and will be managed as sustainable working forests, ensuring public access and enhancing backcountry recreational opportunities for hiking and camping.

Alan Stearns, Deputy Director, Bureau of Parks & Lands, Maine Department of Conservation said, “It would be impossible for state government to have protected Stowe Mountain and the Grafton Loop Trail without the support of The Trust for Public Land and the United States Forest Service. The Robinson Peak easement represents one of the largest and most significant conservation contributions in recent times. The people of Maine are indebted to the generosity of the donors.”

In Newry, plans for a 100-lot subdivision and more than 60 second home lots have been approved for lands south and east of the protected property, respectively. This nearby development pressure made protection of the Newry property a priority for BPL, TPL, and local and regional stakeholders including the Town of Newry, the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce, Mahoosucs Land Trust, Mahoosuc Guide Service, Maine Natural Areas Program, Appalachian Mountain Club, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust, Outward Bound School, and The Wilderness Society. Stakeholders feared that without a conservation solution, the land’s timber resources were at risk to be liquidated and the land at risk to be divided and sold for subdivisions. Fortunately, the landowner was interested in pursuing a conservation solution.

Jim Mitchell, Executive Director, Mahoosuc Land Trust said, “The Mahoosuc Region is a special place rich in natural resources and recreational opportunities. The two conservation easements strike a balance between the economic and recreational values of the region. Future generations will benefit from the working forest, recreational opportunities and open space protected by these projects.”

The Grafton Notch-Stowe Mountain and Robinson Peak projects are part of a greater “Mahoosuc Initiative,” a collaborative effort to conserve the recreational, scenic and economic values of this unique landscape. This Stowe Mountain property is adjacent to the 3,688-acre Grafton Notch Forest Legacy project that TPL helped protect in 2007. Now that the Stowe Mountain property is protected, the addition will provide a corridor for a new 4-mile extension and new access to the recently completed Grafton Loop Trail, which extends from the Appalachian Trail. The corridor has dramatic views of the Mahoosucs region from Stowe, Bald, and Sunday River White Cap mountain summits.

Bryan Wentzel, Maine Policy Manager for the Appalachian Mountain Club, said, “These projects represent another brick in building the region’s tourism economy, as they secure permanent public access for the Grafton Loop Trail, an important new recreation destination in the Mahoosuc region.”

The Stowe Mountain property also supports two main tributaries to the Bear River, the Simmons Brook, and Wight Brook, as well as riparian habitat, and rare alpine plants including crowberry and bilberry.

Jeremy Sheaffer, Maine Project Director for The Wilderness Society, said, “At a time when public access to land has been disappearing in a blizzard of ‘No Trespassing’ signs, the Stowe Mountain project represents a significant conservation puzzle piece in the Western Mountain landscape that will guarantee the people of Maine and our guests permanent access to a wild place.”

TPL has supported BPL conservation in the Grafton Notch State Park and Mahoosuc Mountain region since 1999. Most recently, TPL conserved Haystock Notch in Bethel as an entry point to the White Mountain National Forest. The Mahoosuc Initiative is a partnership of local, regional and national organizations working on conservation and economic development in the 600,000 acre Mahoosuc Region of New Hampshire and Maine. The Mahoosuc Initiative aims to conserve the region’s natural resources-such as its productive forests and its natural beauty-in support of the timber and tourism economy of the region in order to protect quality of life for residents and visitors. Visit mahoosucinfo.org.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. TPL has conserved nearly 3 million acres of land, and in Maine, TPL has protected more than 115,000 acres with projects ranging from city parks and pathways to coastal habitat and working farms and forests. TPL depends on the support of individuals, corporations, and foundations.