4,200 Acres Added to Mt. Blue State Park (ME)

AUGUSTA, Maine, 6/30/03 – The Maine Department of Conservation (DOC) announced today the permanent conservation of nearly 4,200 acres adjacent to Mount Blue State Park in Weld, Maine. DOC acquired a conservation easement over the land for approximately $480,000, permanently prohibiting development of the land, guaranteeing public access, and ensuring sustainable forestry practices.

This acquisition is part of a larger effort spearheaded by the DOC, the Trust for Public Land, and the Tumbledown Conservation Alliance to conserve approximately 30,000 acres in the region. With today’s announcement, approximately 20,000 acres have now been conserved, including the summit of Tumbledown Mountain, which was protected last December.

Just over $5 million has been raised to date from public and private sources to support this overall effort. Federal Forest Legacy funds of nearly $3 million were secured, in part through an amendment offered by Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe at a critical juncture, and the remainder was provided by the Bush Administration through the US Forest Service. The balance of funding came from a variety of sources, including the Land for Maine’s Future Board and private supporters.

“Conservation of this significant acreage adjacent to Mt. Blue State Park will ensure protection of the property surrounding one of Maine’s natural gems, while also ensuring this land remains in productive use for forestry purposes,” said U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), who, with Senator Susan Collins, successfully spearheaded Senate efforts to secure the funding for the project. “This project is entirely consistent with Maine’s goal of preserving properties like this valuable forestland for future generations, while maintaining existing wildlife habitat essential for species that have become all too rare in the wild, such as the peregrine falcon.”

“It is our collective charge to preserve for future generations Maine’s wild places, such as Mt. Blue State Park. I am pleased that I was able to offer a successful amendment on the Senate floor to secure additional funds for this magnificent area. This easement conserves a significant tract of land while ensuring continued economic productivity, as well as the protection of bald eagle,” said U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine).

“The woods of Maine make up not only the backbone of our state’s economy; they have helped to create our state’s identity. Protecting these woods is one of my highest priorities,” said Rep. -Michael Michaud (D-Maine). “Maine has traditionally used forests for recreation, to support diverse wildlife, and to provide the wood products that support Maine’s economy. New threats now face our forests. An alarming amount of the land has been sold to owners who have no long-term commitment to traditional uses. This is why I was pleased to support the Forest Legacy Program funding for this project.”

“Mount Blue State Park’s varied hiking trails, scenic views of Webb Lake, and popular campground make it a very special place for all Maine citizens to enjoy,” said Rep. Tom Allen (D-Maine). “I am honored to help conserve the working forests surrounding this rare and spectacular place. And I will continue to advocate for additional Forest Legacy Program funding to make this kind of important conservation investment possible.”

“I am truly delighted that the people of Maine can be assured that more of their traditional recreation areas for hiking, hunting, and fishing are being protected through the purchase of these conservation easements, and that this purchase bring us closer to the goal of protecting the 30,000 acres in the Mt. Blue/Tumbledown area,” said Patrick McGowan, commissioner of the Department of Conservation.

The purchase was facilitated by the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit conservation organization, which purchased the parcels from McDonald Investment Company and TR Dillon Logging, Inc., in 2002 to hold them off the market while funding was sought for conservation.

“This is another important step forward in the larger effort to conserve critical lands in the region around Mount Blue State Park and Tumbledown Mountain,” said Whitney Hatch, regional director for the Trust for Public Land. “The conservation successes that have been achieved in this beautiful part of the state would not have been possible without the steadfast support of Maine’s Congressional delegation, Governor Baldacci, former Governor King, and the Tumbledown Conservation Alliance.”

“Team effort is what accounts for the great success the Mt. Blue/Tumbledown initiative has enjoyed. We still have a lot of work to do, however, before we reach our goals of protecting 30,000 acres and preserving the values this beautiful region of the state is known for—outstanding recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat, and a steady supply of timber for the forest-products industry,” said Bob Kimber of the Tumbledown Conservation Alliance.

The land conserved today consists of three parcels. The largest parcel, some 2,445 acres, lies directly north of Mount Blue State Park and includes 2,185-foot Pope Mountain. The second 910-acre parcel lies across East Brook from Public Reserved Land owned by DOC. The third parcel, which totals nearly 845 acres, lies southwest of the park and includes the summit of Holt Hill as well as frontage on Route 156. Now part of a corridor of conservation land, these parcels provide important wildlife habitat as well as opportunities for low-impact recreation and a critical buffer area around Mount Blue State Park.

After the conservation easement was placed over the three parcels, TPL sold two of them, totaling 3,290 acres, to Hancock Land Company, a Maine-based sixth-generation family owned timber company, for continued management as timberland. TPL still owns the remaining parcel, approximately 910 acres on East Brook, and plans to sell it to a private timber buyer, who will manage the land in accordance with the easement.

“The Mount Blue properties represent the final piece of the conservation and forestry project planned by Hancock Land Company in this area. Now that the acquisitions have been completed, our attention turns to sustainable forest management,” said Matt Hancock, president of the Hancock Land Company. “This includes hiring the best harvest contractors, targeting the most productive soils for forest growth opportunity, promoting high quality saw timber and discouraging that of lesser quality, optimizing the merchandising and utilization process, and aggressively marketing forest products to dependable destinations.” Hancock also owns 7,800 acres around Tumbledown Mountain, which it conserved last year by selling a conservation easement to DOC.

The Mt. Blue to Tumbledown area has long been prized for its scenic beauty, recreation opportunities, wildlife habitat, and productive forests. Recently, in response to large-scale changes in ownership and management practices in the region, the Webb Lake Association, Friends of Maine State Parks, Western Maine Audubon Society, Foothills Land Conservancy, and Appalachian Mountain Club, formed the Tumbledown Conservation Alliance (TCA) to promote a conservation vision for the region.

DOC, TPL, and TCA are working together with the goal of conserving 30,000 acres of high-priority conservation land, including mountaintops, popular recreation trails, and habitat for rare wildlife species like the peregrine falcon, Bicknell’s thrush, and spring salamander.

The coalition’s accomplishments include: 1) adding 2,468 acres to Mount Blue State Park, including Hedgehog Hill in 2001, 2) adding 376 acres to the park’s Webb Lake unit in March 2002, 3) conserving approximately 420 acres adjacent to the park near East Brook in March 2002, 4) conserving just over 11,600 acres, including the summit of Tumbledown Mountain and Tumbledown Pond, in December 2002, and 5) conserving approximately 4,200 acres adjacent to the park, announced today. Additional funds are being sought this year for the purchase of tracts that include the hiking trails leading to the top of Tumbledown Mountain.

As a result of an anonymous donation, TPL also announced today that it has transferred $40,000 to the Maine Community Foundation to create a new fund, the Tumbledown Mountain Stewardship Fund. Annual income from this fund will support DOC’s monitoring and management of conservation land in the Mount Blue to Tumbledown region.

Note to editors: To have a map of the property e-mailed to you, contact Erin Rowland at (617) 367-6200 x 321