Conservation at Maine's East Grand Lake supports local economies

ORIENT, ME (May 5, 2016)—The Conservation Fund and the Open Space Institute announced today the protection of 7,486 acres of working forestland in the town of Orient. Located along the international border of eastern Maine and New Brunswick, Canada, the newly conserved land will continue to be sustainably harvested for timber while securing the largest white-tail deer wintering area in the region and key waterfowl habitat along North Lake and Monument Brook, which are both essential to the local recreation economy.

Made possible in part with funding from the Open Space Institute’s Transborder Protection Fund and the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program, through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), The Conservation Fund conveyed 5,992 acres and a conservation easement on 1,494 acres to the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands in late March 2016. Managed as a working forest for more than a century, the land will now provide public access for hunting, guiding, snowmobiling, ATV riding, as well as fishing on revered East Grand Lake.

OSI’s Transborder Fund supports projects that conserve clean water and healthy forests for wildlife that depend on habitat on both sides of the international border.

“Undeveloped forestland near the US-Canadian border provides essential livelihoods and wildlife habitat,” said Jennifer Melville, Vice President and the Open Space Institute and head of its Transborder Fund. “Conserving lands today is critical to filter drinking water, purify air and harbor wildlife under the changing climate of tomorrow.”

The Conservation Fund purchased this land and an additional 4,520-acre property in the Town of Weston from Wagner Forest Management in 2011 through its Working Forest Fund as part of the East Grand Lake Watershed Initiative. Recognizing that this effort would restrict development on a large portion of the land within the town borders of Orient and Weston, the nonprofit organization has worked closely with both towns to incorporate the needs, interests and concerns of local residents in order to create economic development projects that focus on youth, health and well-being as well as community growth needs. In Orient, The Conservation Fund will be donating property to the town for a new town building and also selling three home lots near Route 1.

“The East Grand Lake Watershed Initiative presents a rare opportunity to realize a coordinated conservation vision embracing managed forestlands, wildlife conservation, community economic development and outdoor education,” said Tom Duffus, vice president and Northeast representative for The Conservation Fund. “It’s exciting to see residents so passionate about their community’s future. At The Conservation Fund, we are committed to making conservation work for America by finding solutions that also enhance community vitality and health, and this initiative is a shining example of that.”

Thanks to a Healthy People Healthy Places grant from the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, the Fund is providing resources to the East Grand Health Center to help with business planning, and to the East Grand School in Danforth for the construction of an outdoor classroom to facilitate hands-on learning and exploration, and for GPS units and GIS software to site and map a network of cross country ski trails on the land owned.

“I'm pleased that the Orient parcel will continue to be managed as a working forest, as that is essential to our local economy,” said Orient resident, Heather Zakupowsky. “Having lived adjacent to this property for years I've seen the vital part it plays to the health of the wintering deer herd, and the viability of the deer yard depends on keeping this parcel intact. Conserving this land through the Forest Legacy Program guarantees forever public access for recreational uses in an area of pristine beauty.”

The significant conservation acquisition and easement were made possible with public and private funding, including $1.8 million in federal funding from the LWCF through the Forest Legacy Program, other dedicated state funds and the OSI grant. LWCF is a bipartisan, federal program that uses a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties—not taxpayer dollars. LWCF and the Forest Legacy Program are annually funded by the U.S. Congress, including Maine’s U.S. delegation representing the East Grand Lake Watershed: U.S. Senator Susan Collins, U.S. Senator Angus King and U.S. Representative Bruce Poliquin.

“The preservation of nearly 7,500 acres in Orient is great news for working forests as well as the hunters, anglers, snowmobilers, and other outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy using the forestland surrounding East Grand Lake,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement. “Maine is renowned for its working forests, public access to recreation, and a commitment to conservation, which together are integral to our state's economy. We commend The Conservation Fund for working with the community partners and ensuring the preservation of this property for future generations.”

“This project is important for our Maine families and kids to enjoy our State’s great outdoors, while also ensuring that the land continues to be sustainably harvested so that it remains a healthy working forest,” said Congressman Poliquin. “As a proud member of the House Conservation Caucus and supporter of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, I will continue to protect our State’s unique natural beauty and resources.”

Jim Barresi, Acting Director, Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry for the U.S. Forest Service, said, “These important forests provide an abundance of public benefits and continue to provide the environmental benefits that forests offer not only in Maine but across the country.”

The East Grand Lake Watershed Initiative seeks to protect 30 miles of undeveloped shoreline on five lakes—including 21 miles on East Grand Lake alone—and extend protection within the St. Croix International Waterway for wildlife, recreation and water quality of the headwaters of various watersheds and waterways. The effort will also secure habitat for federally listed endangered wild Atlantic salmon, state endangered least bittern and black tern, state threatened bald eagles, and 27 species of greatest conservation need through Maine’s Wildlife Action Plan.

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