State Completes Conservation Along Seboeis Lake

More than 5,700 acres of land along Seboeis Lake has been conserved south of Millinocket, the State of Maine and The Trust for Public Land announced today. The effort protects two miles of Seboeis Lake shoreline, completing conservation of more than 99 percent of the lake’s 45-mile shoreline. The addition also links two significant all-terrain-vehicle (ATV) corridors that previously ended north and south of the property.

“We are grateful to the State of Maine for its steadfast commitment to protecting access to Seboeis Lake, preserving recreational trails, and supporting the local timber economy,” said Wolfe Tone, The Trust for Public Land’s Maine director. “This is a big victory for Maine, and for recreation and jobs tied to our best natural assets. We are thankful for the support from the Maine congressional delegation and many Millinocket and Maine partners.”

“Acquiring the south end of Seboeis Lake not only completes shoreline conservation and water access around the lake at the geographic center of Maine, but it also provides the critical inter-connection point of major snowmobile and ATV trail networks between the central Maine and Millinocket regions of the state,” said Maine Conservation Commissioner Bill Beardsley. “This is what public access for Maine people to Maine’s natural environment is all about. This also is working forest that will produce revenue that supports management of the public reserved lands system.”

The 5,741-acre property is now owned and managed by the Maine Department of Conservation, Bureau of Parks and Lands, and expands the Seboeis Lands Unit to more than 21,000 acres. The lake is already popular for boating, and views of Mount Katahdin and the Barren-Chairback Range. A potential new boat launch will make it easier for fishermen to get to the lake. Maintaining large intact sections of forest will help the local economy. And key regional ATV and snowmobile trail linkages on the property will facilitate future trail investments.

The Trust for Public Land, a national conservation organization, has worked for years to protect the property. Most of the $2.7 million purchase price came from a $2.19 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Legacy Program (FLP). The grant was strongly supported by U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both R-Maine, and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine. Another $483,136 came from Maine’s Land for Maine’s Future program, and $14,461.50 each from both the federal Department of Transportation’s Recreational Trails Program and the state Department of Conservation’s Bureau of Parks and Lands.

Maine’s congressional delegation was instrumental in getting the funding for the acquisition.

“As a long-time supporter of the Forest Legacy Program and a member of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, I am pleased to see the addition of the Seboeis Lake shoreland, part of the Katahdin Forest Expansion project, finalized,” said Sen. Collins. “This acquisition will allow all Mainers to enjoy our state’s priceless assets. Public recreation is vital to Maine’s tourism and is a great service to local residents. In the heart of Maine’s North woods, this acquisition will connect existing recreation and conservation lands and will preserve the working forest while maintaining public access and protecting the natural beauty of our state.”

Sen. Snowe noted: “The Katahdin region is the jewel of Maine’s preeminent outdoor economy, and this conservation project will help to not only preserve, but in fact, bolster the fishing and hiking opportunities the area affords, while also maintaining key ATV access. I am proud to have supported this vital project in 2009 and am grateful to the Town of Millinocket, the State of Maine, and The Trust for Public Land, as well as the many other organizations and countless individuals who have played an integral role in the completion of this project.

“It’s great to see the State of Maine continue its strong commitment to land conservation through collaboration with local interests,” said Rep. Michaud. “State, local, and private partnership is the Maine way of maintaining working landscapes and recreational activities. This Seboeis Lake acquisition will continue to enhance outdoor recreation, promote economic development, and improve public access throughout the Katahdin region.

Conservation of the property creates one of the only remaining linkages for ATV travel along the 50-mile multi-use trail between Millinocket and the southern and western parts of the state. Nearly 12 miles of the trail goes through the Seboeis Land Unit, and now links north and south legs of the trail, which had terminated at the property’s borders. The public can now access approximately five miles of ITS 111, which links southwest to the Brownville area and north to the Jo-Mary region, and directly north through Millinocket.

The addition of the southern Seboeis Lake property will also anchor Maine’s largest contiguous block of conservation land, more than 500,000 acres. From this property, visitors can travel north to the Canadian border traveling through conserved lands the entire way.

Paul Sannicandro, secretary of the Northern Timber Cruisers ATV and Snowmobile Club, a Millinocket recreation group instrumental in supporting the funding of the Seboeis acquisition, pointed out the five-year collaborative effort made by the club, the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce, the communities of Millinocket, East Millinocket and Medway, Katahdin Forest Management LLC, The Trust for Public Land and MDOC in acquiring the unique property. He also stressed the possible impact of the acquisition on the area as it relates to the newly developed Katahdin Region Multi-Use Trail.

“This purchase is what this region has been relying on to encourage trail connectivity to the ATV system to the south,” Sannicandro said. “It is going to expand our recreational and economic opportunities. The Katahdin region already is known as the gateway to the Northern Maine Woods, but now we have the opportunity to enhance the potential of what ATVs can do for our outdoor recreation and tourism development. It’s been proven to help economic development in other parts of the state, and now it can happen here.”

The Land for Maine’s Future Program (LMF) was created in 1987 to protect critical natural areas, wildlife habitat and farmland, and has protected more than 532,000 acres. A recent report authored by The Trust for Public Land found that every $1 invested by Land for Maine’s Future has generated $11 in natural goods and services. Currently, the Land for Maine’s Future is out of funds. In April, the state legislature’s joint-appropriations committee proposed sending a $5 million LMF bond package to the voters this fall. LMF funds are essential to making projects like Seboeis South possible.

The federal Forest Legacy Program is paid for from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the federal government’s main source of protecting public land and buying conservation easements, which block future development. It is funded not by taxpayer dollars but by royalties paid by energy companies in exchange for offshore oil and gas leases. To date, the LWCF funding has provided more than $40 million in grants to Maine.

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, is the nation’s leader in creating parks in cities and creating local funds for parks and land conservation. TPL depends on the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations. In Maine, TPL has protected more than 130,000 acres, including Katahdin Lake, the western shoreline of Seboeis Lake, and Millinocket Forest.