Agreement Would Protect Access to Over 11K Acres (ME)

Augusta, ME, 11/30/2007: Governor John Baldacci, Millinocket Town Manager Gene Conlogue, Roxanne Quimby, Commissioner Patrick McGowan and The Trust for Public Land (TPL) today announced an agreement to exchange land and easements in the region east and south of Katahdin Lake. In an historic collaboration, the parties have come together to accomplish the dual goals of wilderness management and lands open to hunting and snowmobiling. The agreement – the result of months of negotiations facilitated by TPL and involving the State of Maine, the town of Millinocket, Roxanne Quimby, and snowmobile and sportsmen groups – includes several key components:

  • Elliotsville Plantation Inc.(EPI), the private nonprofit foundation founded by Roxanne Quimby, acquired the 8,900-acre Wassataquoik Valley, just east of Baxter State Park and abutting the recently-protected Katahdin Lake.
  • TPL has signed an option with EPI for the acquisition of 11,583 acres of land east of Baxter State Park including significant stretches of the popular ITS 83 and ITS 85 trails known as the Millinocket to Matagamon Trail. The State will have two years to secure the necessary public funds to acquire the fee and easement parcels for appraised fair market value. The parcels include:
    Approximately 5,000 acres just north of Millinocket Lake for fee acquisition by the state.
    Two parcels totaling 6,647 acres just east of the East Branch of the Penobscot River over which will be acquired working forest conservation easements.
  • The State of Maine and EPI have entered into an Access Agreement whereby EPI will permanently grant snowmobile access across other portions of the trail that cross current and potential future EPI lands in this immediate area. The location of the trail can be relocated by mutual consent. EPI will partner with the State to secure ATV access along this corridor.

The agreement is a considerable step forward in the long-standing effort to balance wilderness and multiple use land management in the Baxter region. When the Maine Legislature voted to support the Katahdin Lake public land swap, they directed the DOC to secure an option on the Wassataquoik Valley parcel in an effort to maintain multiple use access in the area. Since that decision in April of 2006, however, land ownership in the Millinocket area changed significantly, leaving critical snowmobile trails and higher priority local recreation opportunities at risk.

The Wassataquoik Valley parcel is wedged in a remote region of conservation land with Baxter State Park to the west, Department of Conservation land to the northwest, EPI wilderness land to the east and south. Because of its remote character, historic use of the parcel for hunting and motorized uses has been limited. The East Branch and Sandy Stream parcels, by contrast, have a long history both as sources of fiber to local mills and for multiple-use recreation. Further discussions with representatives of the local community revealed that the recreational trail running north to south in that region was a critical multiple use feature of the region.

“This collaboration demonstrates once again that when Maine people are confronted with a challenge, they don’t give up until they find a solution,” said Governor John Baldacci. “The traditions and economic drivers of hunting and motorized recreation are part the fabric of who we are. Likewise, having climbed Katahdin and paddled the Allagash with my son this past year, I am a firm believer in the importance of the wilderness experiences that our state has to offer. I am proud of the role my administration played in helping bring this agreement to form.”

Millinocket Town Manager Eugene Conlogue recalled how Roxanne Quimby made the first approach in October of 2006. “Roxanne deserves a great deal of credit for bringing together groups with a very different a vision from her own and getting us all to roll up our sleeves and develop a solution that works,” said Conlogue. “That spirit of collaboration allowed TPL to then piece together the details and secure support. This agreement not only resolves a conflict on the ground but creates a partnership in which we can work together into the future.”

“What kept us all at the table was a shared commitment to this landscape,” said Roxanne Quimby. “In the past, while we argued about whose vision was best, the land was changing hands and opportunities were passing us by. The reality of an unpredictable future brought us together to try and bring some predictability to a region in transition. This collaboration would not have happened without the steady hand of Jim Page, CEO of J.W. Sewall and Company, who mediated our early discussions, or without the willingness of all involved, particularly Gene Conlogue and representatives of local snowmobile and sportsmens’ groups, to set aside differences and work towards a solution.”

“Perhaps what is most compelling about this agreement is the leadership and creativity demonstrated by representatives of the Millinocket community, ” said Sam Hodder of the Trust for Public Land. “The community’s priorities were clearly voiced and were directly reflected in the final result. Their role in this collaboration sets a positive precedent for local involvement in land conservation in the region.”

Maine Department of Conservation Commissioner Patrick McGowan said, “The best conservation projects in Maine are those driven by local priorities. The Governor and the Legislature both deserve credit for insisting that local representatives be in the lead as we move forward.”

“This has been a truly successful partnership,” said Tom Gardner of Gardner Land Company, the landowner of the Wassataquoik Valley parcel. “TPL has been an extremely effective partner and together with the Town of Millinocket, the Department of Conservation, and Elliotsville Plantation, they have put together a project that makes a lot of sense. Our family and our employees are very pleased with the end result and proud to have been a part of it.”

The Trust for Public Land is a national non-profit organization dedicated to conserving land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 2 million acres of land in 46 states, including more than 330,000 acres in New England and 100,000 acres in the State of Maine. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. TPL-protected properties in Maine include Katahdin Lake, Tumbledown Mountain, Scarborough Beach, Meserve Farm, Portland’s Eastern Promenade, and many more.

The Department of Conservation is a natural resource agency whose bureaus oversee the management and stewardship of some of Maine’s most special places: 17 million acres of forestland, 10.4 million acres of unorganized territory, 49 parks and historic sites and more than 569,000 acres of public reserved land. Created in 1973, the Department of Conservation’s mission is to benefit the citizens, landowners, and users of the state’s natural resources by promoting stewardship and ensuring responsible balanced use of Maine’s land, forest, water, and mineral resources.