19,000 Acres Could be Protected (ME)

WELD, Maine, 8/1/01: The Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit conservation organization, announced today it has reached agreements to purchase approximately 19,400 acres surrounding Mount Blue State Park and Tumbledown Mountain from three landowners: McDonald Investment Company, Inc., TR Dillon Logging, Inc., and Hancock Timber Resource Group.

If sufficient federal, state, and private funds can be raised, the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands plans to purchase roughly one-third of the property, some 7,000 acres. TPL hopes to protect the rest of the land with conservation easements, which would leave the land in private hands but permanently prohibit development and protect sensitive environmental areas. Federal funding for the project is currently being considered by Congress as part of the Fiscal Year 2001-2002 budget negotiations.

Under the terms of two of the agreements announced today, TPL has the right to purchase approximately 7,600 acres from TR Dillon Logging, Inc. and McDonald Investment Company, Inc. for a total of $2.7 million. TPL has also signed an option agreement to purchase 11,800 acres from Hancock Timber Resource Group, with the purchase price to be worked out through an independent appraisal process. TPL has until December 31, 2001 to purchase all of the properties.

“The Trust for Public Land is delighted to announce our intention to purchase 19,400 acres around Mount Blue and Tumbledown Mountain. There is now an opportunity to pull together funding to permanently protect these outstanding lands,” said TPL regional director Whitney Hatch. “Over the next several months, we will be working with the state of Maine, the Congressional delegation, and the Tumbledown Conservation Alliance to raise both public and private funds for this project.”

Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said, “Tumbledown Mountain is one of the most accessible and spectacular of Maine’s notable mountains, and I am proud to join the Trust for Public Land and my Congressional colleagues in working to protect it and other nearby peaks. With these agreements in place, I will work with Senate appropriators to assure the federal funding necessary to make this land conservation effort a reality.”

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) said, “This is an important and worthwhile project for Maine. I am delighted that I, along with Senator Snowe, was able to add a million dollars for the project to the Senate version of the Fiscal Year 2002 Interior Appropriations bill.”

Maine Gov. Angus S. King Jr., said, “Permanent conservation of these lands near Tumbledown and Mount Blue would be a tremendous achievement. I am pleased TPL has reached these agreements and will work with them and our congressional delegation to secure funding to complete this exciting project.”

Representative Tom Allen (D-Maine) stated, “The Trust for Public Land’s efforts to conserve the area around Mount Blue and Tumbledown Mountain will insure continued public access to Maine’s western mountains. It is precisely the kind of public-private partnership envisioned by Congress under the Forest Legacy program. I will continue working to build bipartisan support in Congress for the needed funding.”

Representative John Baldacci (D-Maine) said, “This is a win-win both for the local economy and the future of the western Maine forests. I will work to make sure Congress continues to support the Forest Legacy Program, which funds projects such as this.” Forest Legacy is a federal program that provides money to states for the protection of forestland, with a focus on conserving wildlife habitat and recreation areas while maintaining timber harvesting.

The Mount Blue/Tumbledown Mountain Project area is in the state’s western mountains and has long been valued for scenic landscape, recreation, natural resources, and productive forests. Last year, in response to large-scale changes in ownership and management practices in the region, five organizations—the Webb Lake Association, Friends of the Maine State Parks, Western Maine Audubon Society, Foothills Land Conservancy, and the Appalachian Mountain Club—formed the Tumbledown Conservation Alliance to promote a conservation vision for the region.

To refine this vision, the Maine Department of Conservation, Bureau of Parks and Lands has identified conservation priorities, many of which are found on the properties TPL now has under agreement. These include the peaks of Tumbledown Mountain, Little Jackson Mountain, and Jackson Mountain; one of Mount Blue State Park’s most popular trails for hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling; and habitat for a number of vulnerable and declining plant and animal species, including peregrine falcons, Bicknell’s thrushes, and spring salamanders.

“This is a major step toward our goal of conserving this unique landscape in our region,” said Jo Josephson, a member of the Tumbledown Conservation Alliance’s development committee. “We are now rolling up our sleeves to raise $1.8 million in private funds from the many people who care about the Mount Blue/Tumbledown region. We have a limited window -more- The Trust for Public Land, page 3 of opportunity before us and hope that our private fundraising effort will help leverage $4 million in new federal funding for this exciting effort.”

In Fiscal Year 2001, thanks to the bipartisan support of the Maine Congressional delegation, $1.17 million was allocated to the Forest Legacy program and the state for the Mount Blue/Tumbledown region. In addition, the Land for Maine’s Future Board gave $500,000 to the effort last year. As a result of an amendment offered by Senators Collins and Snowe, the Senate recommended $1 million from the Forest Legacy Program for the project. The Tumbledown Conservation Alliance is hoping to work with Maine’s Congressional delegation to increase the allocation for the Mount Blue/Tumbledown area as the Senate and House begin reconciling their budgets.

The Trust for Public Land is a national conservation organization dedicated to conserving land for people to enjoy as parks and open space. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.2 million acres nationwide, including nearly 30,000 acres in Maine.