Federal Funds Approved for Grafton Notch Protection (ME)

Augusta, ME 3/16/2007: Federal funding awards for two Maine forest conservation projects – Grafton Notch and Lower Penobscot Forest – were announced today by Governor John Baldacci, the Maine Congressional delegation, The Trust for Public Land (TPL), The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and The Forest Society of Maine (FSM). The Grafton Notch project, which was the nation’s top-ranked USDA Forest Legacy Program (FLP) project in federal fiscal year 2007 (FFY07), received $2 million for the protection of 3,688 acres of forest and recreation lands in the Mahoosuc Mountains of western Maine, just north of Bethel. The second Maine project – the 42,537-acre Lower Penobscot Forest Project east of Bangor – was ranked eleventh of 31 projects nationally in FFY07 and received $2.2 million. A total of 91 projects from across the country were submitted to the FLP, and fewer than one-third received funding this year.

The Maine Congressional delegation last month announced that the President’s Fiscal Year 2008 budget includes additional funding for Lower Penobscot Forest, which was ranked third in the nation. Congress will begin working on its appropriations bills this spring.

Governor Baldacci and the Maine Department of Conservation recommended the Grafton Notch and Lower Penobscot projects as Maine’s top Forest Legacy Program priorities in 2006, and the projects were strongly supported by U.S. Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and Congressmen Michael Michaud and Tom Allen. In addition to the proposed federal funds, project partners are securing matching funds from other public and private sources, including the Land for Maine’s Future program.

“The lands involved in these projects are among the most beautiful in Maine,” said Governor John Baldacci. “The Grafton Notch area has a rich recreation tradition, from hunting and hiking to skiing and snowmobiling. The Lower Penobscot lands offer wonderful fishing and recreation. Key to completing these projects is the contribution from the Land for Maine’s Future program, which totals nearly $2.5 million for these projects. Maine people have consistently supported investments in Maine’s special places. I want to thank Maine’s Congressional delegation for their support of these projects in Washington.”

“Grafton Notch State Park contains some of the most beautiful and majestic hiking opportunities that Maine has to offer. Along with recreational opportunities, it also protects diverse habitats, permits the practice of sustainable forestry, and contributes greatly to the local economy,” said Senator Snowe. “I was a strong supporter of this funding and am thrilled that this project has now received the $2 million we sought. In addition, the Lower Penobscot Forest Project, a substantial working forest easement within minutes of Bangor, is a high priority for the Forest Legacy Program and I will continue to support it during the coming year as well.”

“I am proud to support these worthwhile projects and it is a pleasure to see them continue to receive federal support,” said Senator Collins. The Grafton Notch project would permanently protect 3,688 acres of stunning landscape, adjacent to one of the most rugged and most popular sections of the federally protected Appalachian Trail. The Lower Penobscot Project will protect the largest unfragmented forest block in central Maine and helps preserve Maine’s social, cultural, and economic traditions.”

“The State of Maine and partner organizations like the Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy and Forest Society of Maine continue to create some of the strongest and most innovative conservation projects in the country,” said Representative Michaud. “These projects reflect Maine’s commitment to protect working forests for future generations of local residents, sportsmen, and other outdoor enthusiasts. As a 29-year mill worker at Great Northern Paper, I know how important this issue is, and I am pleased to have supported these projects that promote the conservation of Maine’s working woods.

“Grafton Notch and the Lower Penobscot Forest are magnificent open spaces heavily utilized by Mainers,” said Representative Allen. “I commend Governor Baldacci, Commissioner McGowan, the Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy and the Forest Society of Maine for their hard work to protect these parcels and was pleased to support them last year. As the leader of the effort to fund the Forest Legacy Program in the House of Representatives, it makes me proud that Maine continues to present well-supported forest conservation projects.”

“Completion of these projects is a win-win for Maine citizens and visitors alike,” said Patrick K. McGowan, Commissioner of the Department of Conservation. “We have seen an increase in development pressure on recreation lands lately. Acquisition of this property forever sets aside more than 46,000 acres of forest for multiple-use recreation. Hunters, hikers and snowmobile enthusiasts will find great enjoyment both in the Mahoosucs and on the Lower Penobscot project lands.”

Grafton Notch Project description

Descending to the southeast from the 4,180-feet crest of Old Speck Mountain, one ofMaine’s highest peaks, the Grafton Notch project area offers plentiful opportunities for recreation, hunting, sustainable forestry, and protection of diverse forest and riparian habitats. It is surrounded on three sides by Maine Public Reserve Lands and Grafton Notch State Park, a very popular tourist destination, and is adjacent to Mahoosuc Notch, one of the most rugged sections of the federally-protected Appalachian Trail (AT). The parcel is also in the viewshed from the AT, both from Mahoosuc Notch and from the Baldpate Mountain section of the trail. The Land for Maine’s Future program has already awarded nearly $1 million to this project which will help ensure its completion.

“Maine will benefit greatly from the support of the Maine Congressional delegation and the USDA Forest Legacy Program for this outstanding project,” said Sam Hodder, Director of the Maine Office of TPL. “The outstanding natural resources and recreational opportunities at Grafton Notch will be conserved for Mainers and visitors alike to enjoy now and into the future.”

A snowmobile trail that provides a critical link to a Maine-New Hampshire trail network runs through the property along the Bear River. In addition, this property’s public protection is critical to the completion of the 42-mile Grafton Loop Trail, a newly-constructed AT spur that runs from East Baldpate Mountain across several peaks before ascending the southeast slopes of Old Speck and reconnecting to the AT.

“We are very excited about the opportunity that this project provides to ensure public access to some of Maine’s most outstanding recreational sites, continued opportunity for sustainable timber harvesting, and enhanced economic opportunities for local communities,” said Steve Wight, Chairman of the Board of Selectman for Newry. “This project secures multiple-use access in a region that relies heavily on its spectacular natural landscape to maintain its recreational, tourism and wood products economies.”

Lower Penobscot Forest Project description

Funding for the Lower Penobscot Forest Project will go toward protecting over 42,000 acres within the largest unfragmented forest block in central Maine. The President’s FY2008 budget asks for additional funding for this project. The Department of Conservation is working with The Nature Conservancy, the Forest Society of Maine and local communities to support this project. Once all funding is secured, the State will acquire a working forest easement on more than 25,000 acres near Great Pond. Nearly 5,000 acres in the town of Amherst will also be conserved. The Nature Conservancy is raising funds towards the purchase of more than 12,000 acres bordering Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. The project has already been awarded $1.5 million by the Land for Maine’s Future Program. The rolling mountains of the Lower Penobscot Forest Project contain the largest unfragmented forest in Central Maine – the project seeks to reverse the trend of sprawling development and the ramifications of forest fragmentation.

According to the US Forest Service, no private forest land in the nation is more threatened by home development than the Lower Penobscot River watershed. This project will halt the incursion from development and create a nearly 30,000-acre block of land that will remain in sustainable timber production. An additional 11,332 acres will be purchased as an ecological reserve by The Nature Conservancy, buffering the vital wetlands at Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and the State’s Bradley Unit. In total the project seeks to protect 42,537 acres. Minutes from the Bangor area, the site is popular for a great number of Maine’s residents providing opportunities for a wide variety of outdoor recreation including, hunting, fishing, canoeing, and hiking.

“We are pleased that the Forest Service shares our belief that these forests are of national importance,” said Mike Tetreault, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Maine. “The Lower Penobscot Forest Project will head off a wedge of subdivisions that are threatening to separate Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge from lands protected by the State. The land includes forested wetlands, bogs, old-growth spruce-fir forests and the second largest red pine woodland in Maine.”

The Maine Department of Conservation is a natural resource agency whose bureaus oversee the management, development and protection of some of Maine’s most special places: Seventeen million acres of forestland, 10.4 million acres of unorganized territory, 47 parks and historic sites and more than 480,000 acres of public reserved land.

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. With funding from the Forest Legacy Program, the federal Land & Water Conservation Fund, state and local open-space funds, and other public and private investments, TPL has helped to protect more than 2 million acres across the country. TPL depends upon the support of individuals, foundations and corporations. For more information, visit TPL on the web at www.tpl.org

The Nature Conservancy is a private, nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to the protection of the plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. Since its founding in 1956 by Rachel Carson and others, the Maine Chapter of The Nature Conservancy has protected nearly 675,000 acres of Maine’s finest wildlife habitat. With the help of more than 11,000 individual, corporate, and foundation supporters and numerous volunteers, the Chapter owns and manages Maine’s largest system of privately owned nature preserves. Approximately 900,000 members support the Conservancy’s work internationally, and the organization has grown to be the nation’s 10th largest nonprofit. For more information, visit www.tnc.org

The Forest Society of Maine is a statewide land trust based in Bangor. Established in 1984, FSM has helped conserve more than 400,000 acres of productive forestlands across Maine, including all or parts of more than 100 lakes and ponds. Their conservation projects maintain traditional forest uses–sustaining economic returns from the land while preserving ecological values and traditional recreational opportunities. For more information, visit www.fsmaine.org.

The USDA Forest Legacy Program (FLP), authorized by Congress in 1990 to keep intact natural and recreational resources of the nation’s dwindling forests,supports state efforts to protect environmentally sensitive forest lands It provides federal money to states to protect threatened working forests and woodlands either through public purchase or conservation easements. To date, the program has protected over 1 million acres of forest lands across the country, including over 300,000 acres in Maine For more information, visit www.fs.fed.us/spf/coop/programs/loa/aboutflp.shtml