Grafton Notch Conservation Project Completed (ME)
Portland, ME, 9/21/2007: The Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation organization, joined with conservation partners and elected officials in Newry today to announce the permanent protection of 3,688 acres of forest and recreation lands in the Mahoosuc Mountains of western Maine, just north of Bethel. Known as the Grafton Notch Forest Legacy project, the area is bordered on three sides by Maine Public Reserve Lands and Grafton Notch State Park, and is adjacent to Mahoosuc Notch, one of the most rugged sections of the Appalachian Trail (AT). The project was the nation’s top-ranked U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program (FLP) project in federal fiscal year 2007, receiving $2 million through the program for its protection.
Descending to the southeast from the 4,180-foot crest of Old Speck Mountain, one of Maine’s highest peaks, the Grafton Notch project area protects one of New England’s premier hiking areas. The parcel includes four miles of the new Grafton Loop Trail and a popular snowmobile trail traverses the lower elevations. The parcel is also in the viewshed from the AT, both from the famed Mahoosuc Notch and from the Baldpate Mountain section of the trail.
Governor John Baldacci and the Maine Department of Conservation recommended the Grafton Notch property as Maine’s top FLP priority in 2006, and the project was strongly supported by U.S. Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and Congressmen Michael Michaud and Tom Allen. In addition to the federal funds, project partners secured matching monies from other public and private sources, including $660,000 from the Land for Maine’s Future program. The Scenic Byway Program and the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund also provided funding. The Open Space Conservancy, the land acquisition affiliate of the Open Space Institute (OSI), provided a $2.5 million loan to TPL to hold the property off the market while federal funds were pending.
“The land is among the most beautiful in Maine,” said DOC Commissioner Patrick McGowan. “The Grafton Notch area has a rich recreation tradition, from hunting and hiking to skiing and snowmobiling. Key to completing this project is the contribution from the Land for Maine’s Future program. Maine people have consistently supported investments in Maine’s special places.”
“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 the Forest Legacy Program funding and am thrilled that this project is now permanently protected.”
“I am proud to support this worthwhile project and it is a pleasure to see it now protected in perpetuity,” said Senator Collins. “The Grafton Notch project permanently protects 3,688 acres of stunning landscape, adjacent to one of the most rugged and most popular sections of the federally protected Appalachian Trail.”
Representative Michaud said, “This project reflects Maine’s commitment to protect working forests for future generations of local residents, sportsmen, and other outdoor enthusiasts. I am pleased to have supported this project that promotes the conservation of Maine’s western mountains.””Grafton Notch is magnificent open space heavily utilized by Mainers,” said Representative Allen. “I commend all of the partners for their hard work to protect this parcel and was pleased to support its protection. 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.”
“Each year, land projects from all over the country compete to be selected for Forest Legacy funding. Last year, the Grafton project was the highest rated project in the nation. One reason — the public access. People who hike in the area are thrilled with the additional trail options provided by the new Grafton Loop Trail, 4 miles of which are on this Forest Legacy tract. Contributing to the Grafton Forest Legacy Project is another way for the US Forest Service to ‘care for the land and serve people’.” Kathy Maloney, Northeastern Area Director, US Forest Service.
The Grafton Notch project is part of a greater “Mahoosuc Initiative,” a collaborative effort driven by local stakeholders and the vision of local citizens, to conserve the recreational, scenic and economic values of this unique landscape.
As part of the Mahoosuc Initiative, TPL is working on an additional Forest Legacy project near Grafton Notch State Park, the 3,500-acre Stowe Mountain parcel immediately adjacent to the Grafton Notch parcel announced at today’s event. The State of Maine recommended Stowe Mountain for fiscal year 2008 FLP funding and it has been submitted to Congress for consideration. The land includes much of the alpine summit of the 3,300-foot Sunday River Whitecap Mountain and the summits of Stowe and Bald mountains. If conserved, it will complement the ongoing effort at Grafton Notch and extend the conservation of the Grafton Loop Trail and ITS 82.
“Maine has greatly benefited from the support of the Maine Congressional delegation, the U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program, the Land for Maine’s Future program, the Open Space Institute and the Betterment Fund for this outstanding project,” said Sam Hodder, Director of the Maine Office of TPL. “The incredible natural resources and recreational opportunities at Grafton Notch will be conserved for Mainers and visitors alike to enjoy now and into the future.”
“We are pleased to collaborate with the Trust for Public Land in protecting this marvelous resource for the people of Maine and elsewhere to enjoy forever,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s Executive Vice President.
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 to ensure public access to some of Maine’s most outstanding recreational sites and enhanced economic opportunities for local communities,” said Kevin Slater of the Mahoosuc Guide Service. “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.”
The Grafton Notch protection project was broadly supported in Maine. In addition to the state Bureau of Parks and Land, which will manage the property as part of the Mahoosuc Public Lands Unit, the project received support from local officials and residents, including the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce; local businesses with an interest in an expanded recreational and tourist economy; regional organizations, including the Mahoosuc Land Trust and the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School; and numerous conservation organizations at the local, state, regional and national level.
The Betterment Fund was also a supporter of the Grafton Notch project. Bill Clough, a trustee of the foundation said, “The Mahoosuc region is a treasure trove of unique natural resources, world-class recreational opportunities, and small communities rich in cultural heritage and diverse economies connected to the woods. We appreciate TPL’s collaborative efforts to complete the Grafton Notch project and other complicated land conservation projects in the Mahoosuc region.”
In addition to the Grafton Notch project, TPL also worked with the Forest Legacy Program on the Katahdin Iron Works (KIW) project, completed this past April. The KIW tract lies at the heart of the Appalachian Trail’s famed 100-Mile Wilderness, the most northerly and wildest stretch of the AT. The 37,000 acres of high mountain ridgelines, undeveloped lakes, scenic river corridors, and sweeping vistas will be managed by Maine’s Bureau of Parks and Lands.
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. TPL has helped to protect more than 2.3 million acres across the country, including over 87,000 acres in Maine. TPL depends upon the support of individuals, foundations and corporations who share our mission of conserving land for people. For more information, visit TPL on the web at www.tpl.org
The U.S. 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
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 Open Space Institute (OSI) has helped protect more than 1.6 million acres in the Northern Forest of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and southern Quebec. OSI has provided 20 loans and grants totaling nearly $50 million dollars, partnering with The Trust for Public Land on multiple conservation transactions including the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Project and expansion of the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge in Errol, New Hampshire. For more information visit http://www.osiny.org.