Open Space Institute helps to finance protection of 37,000 acres in 100-Mile wilderness in western Maine

NEW YORK, NY - December 15, 2003 - The Open Space Institute (OSI) announced today that it provided a $3 million, low-interest loan to help the Appalachian Mountain Club purchase 36,691 acres of land in western Maine to promote habitat protection, recreation, education and sustainable forestry. 

The $14.2 million acquisition, located near Greenville in the heart of Maine's fabled 100 Mile Wilderness, will expand protection in this forested region from Moosehead Lake to Mt. Baxter. The parcel, also known as the Katahdin Iron Works (KI) property, includes outstanding ecological and recreational resources, and is traversed by the Appalachian Trail. The transaction was facilitated by the Trust for Public Land. 

The loan was made through OSI's new Conservation Loan Program, which seeks to provide low-cost financing for high-profile land transactions in selected regions of the eastern United States. Through the program, OSI also will disseminate useful information about promising conservation financing practices. 

The new loan program will build upon OSI's Northern Forest Protection Fund, which has helped to protect since 2000 a million acres of land through $10 million in grants and loans to conservation organizations in New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Maine. OSI also provides low-interest bridge loans to land trusts in New Jersey. 

“We are pleased to have helped with this important project,” said Kim Elliman, Chief Executive Officer of the Open Space Institute. “In addition to acquiring important lands in New York, OSI intends to help facilitate the efforts of other organizations elsewhere to protect critical landscapes.” 

The Katahdin Ironworks project, located in the vicinity of several large-scale conservation projects spearheaded by the Nature Conservancy and the Forest Society of Maine will create a model of forest land management that accommodates multiple uses, including low-impact recreation, such as hiking and cross-country skiing; protection for important natural areas; and sustainable forestry. A management plan for the land will be developed within the next year that will determine which areas within the parcel will be managed for conservation, recreation and forestry. Sustainable forestry plans will be certified by a third party. 

AMC purchased the property with interim financing from OSI and Citizen Bank. It will retire the debt by raising public and private resources over the next couple of years. 

While continuing to focus on land protection in New York under the direction of President Joe Martens, OSI will now assist with high-priority land transactions in key forested regions of the Eastern United States. In addition to the Northern Forest and New Jersey, OSI is assessing the viability of expanding into the forests of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, where both development and inappropriate timber harvesting practices threaten the region's ecologically rich landscapes. 

OSI will use up to $20 million of its endowment to make loans and increase its size over time with other loans and grants. As in New Jersey and the Northern Forest, OSI will evaluate potential transactions against key criteria and conduct extensive due diligence on projects.

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