Downeast Lakes Community Forest Expansion to Help Increase Outdoor Access in Maine

The over 2,000-acre addition will create new public access to forests and lakes, and will protect critical wildlife habitat and local economic activity

November 19, 2021
Penobscot County, Maine 

Today, The Trust for Public Land (TPL), Downeast Lakes Land Trust (DLLT) and the Forest Society of Maine (FSM) announce the official expansion of the Downeast Lakes Community Forest. The expansion, located in Lakeville, ME, will add 2,015 acres to the community forest including old-growth type forest, wetlands, and streams. 

“This expansion not only permanently protects one of the last remaining tracts of developable land on the shoreline of Sysladobsis Lake, but allows the Downeast community to have a direct say in the stewardship of more land in their backyard,” said Betsy Cook, Maine Program Director for The Trust for Public Land. “The Downeast Lakes Community Forest is a national model of a community forest, land that is managed by the community, for the community. The Trust for Public Land is proud to have created nearly 40 community forests across the country and to be a leader in the movement.” 

The community forest and surrounding waterways are hubs for outdoor recreation and tourism, which are vital to the economic health of Downeast Maine. Expanding the forest’s footprint creates opportunity to improve access to close-to-home outdoor space, support local businesses, and build community. Funds derived from sustainable timber management are directly invested into the educational, recreational, and forest management programs that support the local economy. The forest expansion also gives people in Bangor, the state’s third-largest city, closer access for a variety of outdoor recreation, including fishing, paddling, swimming, and hiking.  

The property, located on Lower Sysladobsis Lake, will be a valuable resource for DLLT’s educational program, which provides free outdoor education to over 500 local students each year. One of the largest of its kind in the nation, the community forest will be managed by DLLT and ensures residents the opportunity to guide the future of the forests and lakes surrounding their community. Once acquired, Downeast Lakes Land Trust will build two hand-carry boat launches, one on Lower Sysladobsis Lake and one on Horseshoe Lake, a new water-access campsite on the property, and trails along the 2.3 miles of newly protected shoreline. The project will add new public access to Sysladobsis Lake and the first public access to Horseshoe Lake.  

“The community in Lakeville really drove this project from inception to completion,” said David Montague, President and CEO of the Downeast Lakes Land Trust. “Their local vision and determination, along with strong partnership from TPL and FSM, and the generosity of so many donors and grant makers, led to this amazing outcome of an expanded community forest. The forest in Lakeville is a spectacular slice of Downeast Maine, figuring prominently in the ecological and cultural traditions of the region. Now we can be confident that generations of residents and visitors will continue to discover its splendor and experience it in much the same way as earlier generations.” 

FSM will hold a permanent conservation easement on the community forest lands. This adds to existing easements held by the Forest Society on DLLT portions for the Downeast Lakes Community Forest.  

“The new easement ensures that the forests will remain forever and continue to provide the multiple resources the community depends upon,” stated Karin Tilberg, FSM President and CEO. 

The 2,015-acre expansion was sold by Lakeville Shores, LLC and members of the Haynes family, who agreed to sell the land at lower than fair market value. The $2,180,000 acquisition was funded in part through Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) program. In July of this year, new LMF funding was allocated for the first time in over a decade. This project marks the first LMF funded project completed since the funding allocation. Additional funding for the project came from the U.S. Forest Service’s Community Forest Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s North American Wetlands Conservation Act. The project was ranked the number one Community Forest Program priority in the nation for the 2020 cycle, and was praised for its deep-rooted community support. 

“By linking together existing conserved land, the Downeast Lakes Community Forest expansion will protect this area along Sysladobis Lake for generations to come,” said Senators Collins and King and Representative Golden. “Funding from the U.S. Forest Service, combined with matching state and local resources, will preserve the critical wildlife habitat and lake shoreline while supporting sustainable timber management and outdoor recreation, the region’s two largest industries. The official expansion of the Downeast Lake Community Forest is a significant milestone in conservation efforts across the region and represents Maine’s commitment to conserving our natural resources.” 

In addition to state and federal dollars, funding help was provided by Poland Spring ORIGIN® 100% Natural Spring water – a proud supporter of environmental conservation projects that help maintain and improve America’s natural spaces. Additional support came from Summer Hill Foundation, Maine Community Foundation, and generous donations from more than 70 community members. 

About The Trust for Public Land 

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. The organization has been working in Maine for more than two decades and has created public access to 180,000 acres across the state from the Eastern Promenade in Portland to Katahdin Lake in Baxter State Park. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org. 

About Downeast Lakes Land Trust 

Downeast Lakes Land Trust contributes to the long-term economic and environmental well-being of the Downeast Lakes region through the conservation and exemplary management of its forests and waters. DLLT manages the Downeast Lakes Community Forest for wildlife habitat, public recreation, and a sustainable forest economy. To learn more about Downeast Lakes Land Trust’s conservation efforts and how to support our mission, please visit www.downeastlakes.org.  

About the Forest Society of Maine 

The Forest Society of Maine (FSM) was created to serve as the land trust for Maine’s twelve million-acre North Woods. FSM has helped pioneer landscape-scale forestland conservation through the development and implementation of permanent conservation easements. To date FSM has helped conserve a million acres throughout Maine. To learn more visit www.fsmaine.org

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