BANGOR, Me. (March 10, 2022)—The Open Space Institute (OSI), Northeast Wilderness Trust (NEWT), and the Forest Society of Maine (FSM) today announced the successful conservation of 21,300 acres in western Maine. The “Grafton Forest” project, which has been identified as highly effective at storing carbon and providing habitat in the face of climate change, also marks the first conservation victory in the Northern Appalachian focus area of OSI’s groundbreaking Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund (ALPF).
The Grafton Forest project spans 21,300 acres, including the protection of 6,045 acres which NEWT has now established with the support of OSI's ALPF as the Grafton Forest Wilderness Preserve. OSI’s $18 million ALPF targets land protection along the Appalachian Mountain range, a region which contains the world’s largest broadleaf forest, stores most of the nation’s forest carbon, and provides essential climate refuge for plants and animals.
"The successful conservation of Grafton Forest Wilderness Preserve is a resounding achievement in the long-term effort to protect the forests of the Northeast’s Appalachian Mountain region in the face of a changing climate," said Jennifer Melville, vice president at OSI. "This phenomenal conservation project also protects some of the most spectacular scenery and finest remote hiking in Maine from second home development pressures. We thank the Northeast Wilderness Trust for their efforts in securing this critical forest on behalf of the people of Maine.”
OSI’s ALPF Northern Appalachian program is made possible thanks to major support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Jane’s Trust, and several New England-focused family foundations.
Protection of the Grafton Forest property connects hundreds of thousands of acres of conserved lands across the Maine-New Hampshire border.
Protection of the land fills a gap within a conservation corridor consisting of the Mahoosucs Unit of the Maine Department of Conservation Bureau of Public Lands, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, and Grafton Notch State Park; and, it connects hundreds of thousands of protected acres across the Maine-New Hampshire border.
Of the project's 21,300 acres, 6,045 will be stewarded by NEWT as the Grafton Forest Wilderness Preserve, while FSM holds a conservation easement on the remaining 15,000 acres of sustainably managed forests.
The Grafton Forest Wilderness Preserve includes sensitive high elevation lands adjacent to the Appalachian Trail and a significant lowland forest that forms the headwaters of the Swift Cambridge River flowing into the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge. Wilderness management on these lands will enable the forest to sequester and store large amounts of carbon while also securing “climate-resilient” lands that harbor sensitive plants and animals, such as the endangered Canada lynx and Bicknell’s thrush, even as the climate changes.
The conservation easement held by FSM on the 15,000-acre property allows for sustainable forestry, supporting the local forest economy and public recreation. Conservation of the land permanently protects public access to properties including two Appalachian Trail side trails — the Notch Trail and the Speck Pond Trail — as well as ensuring permanent public vehicular access on a road that leads to them. Access to these trails is important not only for hikers but also for Appalachian Trail maintenance and search and rescue operations.
In addition to funding from OSI’s Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund, FSM and NWT jointly raised $10.7 million from funders including the Sweet Water Trust, Maine Appalachian Trail Conservancy/Wild East Action Fund, The EJK Foundation, The Betterment Fund, and Jane’s Trust. FSM and NEWT also recognize the critical support provided by many other foundations and more than 100 individuals.