Crocker Mountain Property Protected

A 12,046-acre Western Maine property including three of Maine’s highest mountains has been permanently protected as a new Crocker Mountain Unit of the State’s system of Public Reserved Lands, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry, The Trust for Public Land, and Plum Creek Timber Company announced today. The conservation purchase will allow for additional recreational development in the Sugarloaf Region, an area that is busy in the winter ski season, but needs additional trails and outdoor experiences to promote tourism related job growth in the non-snow season.

The purchase will also preserve local timber jobs, protect ten miles of the Appalachian Trail, and guarantee access to all-terrain vehicles (ATV) trails. The land will be managed as the new Crocker Mountain Unit of the State’s system of public reserve lands.

Existing trails for snowmobiles and ATVs will be maintained under state ownership and new ATV, hiking, mountain biking, and cross country ski trails are likely to be built. The Town of Carrabassett Valley has strongly supported the project as a way to make the Sugarloaf area, which is heavily used in winter, a year-round recreation destination.

The Trust for Public Land facilitated the acquisition by securing the opportunity to acquire the property and leading the effort to raise the acquisition funds. The project was rated as #3 in the nation in a competition for FY 2012 Federal Forest Legacy funds, which will contribute $5.8 million of the $7.67 million total cost. Additional funding came from the Land for Maine’s Future ($650,000), Town of Carrabassett Valley and over 100 private donors, including the Open Spaces Institute’s Transborder Land Protection Fund. This success was made all the more possible because of the talents and dedication of the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust.

“Maine relies on its vast working forest to sustain its natural resource economy,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “Opportunities for hunting, hiking, snowmobiling and ATVing is part of what draws people to the High Peaks Region. This project assures these opportunities will continue and expand, helping the Sugarloaf area become a true four-season destination and support continued economic development.”

“Our mission is to protect land for people and this is a good example of that,” said Wolfe Tone, Maine Director of The Trust for Public Land. “The success of the Crocker Mountain project will forever protect three of Maine’s iconic 4,000 foot peaks including a 10-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail, and will allow new recreational trails, which we hope bring more visitors to this spectacular region.”

This project and the Forest Legacy Program are supported by the Maine congressional delegation.

“Forest Legacy helps preserve working forests, while at the same time maintaining public access,” U.S. Senator Susan Collins said. “I am delighted that this funding will be used not only to help protect working forest and good jobs in our state, but also to contribute greatly to the effort to preserve some of the most beautiful and resource rich land in Franklin County.”

“The goals of this project are why I’ve supported the Forest Legacy Program for so long. It not only helps preserve land for future generations to enjoy, but it allows it to remain a working forest so that both industry and recreationalists can continue to use it. This project in particular has the potential to grow our economy, helping make the Sugarloaf region an even more attractive destination for tourism,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud.

“I could not be more pleased by this announcement, which is also a fantastic example of all that can be accomplished when federal, state, and local governments work collaboratively with private entities,” U.S. Senator Angus King said. “Outdoor recreation is an important part of Maine’s cultural history as well as a pillar of our state economy. Every year people from across the country come to visit and enjoy all that our mountains, rivers, lakes, and coastal waterways have to offer. The Crocker Mountain project, with the support of the Forest Legacy Program, embodies that spirit by ensuring that year-round trail usage in the Sugarloaf region will be protected for the enjoyment of Mainers and visitors alike for generations to come.”

Now that the state has taken ownership, the Division of Parks and Public Lands will be developing a management plan that will balance recreational development, sustainable timber harvesting, and ecological protection. The public will have extensive opportunities to provide input to the plan.

Plum Creek has helped conserve more than 400,000 acres in Maine over the past 15 years, and we are pleased to partner to conserve this special land that has exceptional ecological, wildlife and recreational values,” said Paul Davis, vice president for Plum Creek. “We recognize the efforts of The Trust for Public Land and the State of Maine in making this conservation project successful.”

“The Town of Carrabassett Valley applauds the success of all the partners involved in conserving Crocker Mountain,” Carrabassett Valley Town Manager, Dave Cota, said. “It is wonderful knowing this part of Western Maine’s High Peaks will be forever protected for conservation, sustainable forestry, and recreation for all to enjoy. The state, The Trust for Public Land and all of the partners have made possible a fabulous investment in the very infrastructure of trails, incredible scenic beauty, and working forests that draw people to the High Peaks region and drive our local economies.”

The Forest Legacy Program provides money to states to protect threatened forests. It comes from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is funded by royalties paid by energy companies in exchange for oil and gas extraction from federal offshore leases.

Founded in 1972, The Trust for Public Land is the leading nonprofit working to conserve land for people. Operating from more than 30 offices nationwide, The Trust for Public Land has protected more than three million acres from the inner city to the wilderness and helped generate more than $34 billion in public funds for conservation. Nearly ten million people live within a ten-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year.

The Maine Division of Parks and Public Lands, within the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, manages 48 state parks and historic sites, 600,000 acres of public reserved land, and provides conservation oversight monitoring of 730,000 acres of conservation easements on private lands. Its multiple-use guidelines provide an extraordinary array of working forests, wildland preserves, outdoor recreation, and more than 20,000 miles of ATV, snowmobile, waterway and coastal trails.

The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust was founded with the mission of “preserving and protecting the land surrounding the Appalachian Trail in Maine for public benefit.” MATLT owns interest in lands on Mt. Abraham and on Saddleback Mountain in the High Peaks region.

Plum Creek is the largest and most geographically diverse private landowner in the nation with approximately 6.7 million acres of timberlands in major timber producing regions of the United States and wood products manufacturing facilities in the Northwest.

The Open Space Institute manages the Transborder Protection Fund, established to protect ecologically significant forested landscapes in the Northern Appalachian/Acadian eco-region, an 80 million acre region spanning the eastern edge of North American and the boundaries of the United States and Canada.