MILLINOCKET, ME (Aug. 2, 2016)—Nearly nine miles of Maine’s East Branch of the Penobscot River has been permanently preserved by the Open Space Institute (OSI). The preservation of the undeveloped shoreline guarantees and improves access to one of Maine’s best wild canoeing rivers, while protecting the river’s ecological assets.
The project marks OSI’s first direct acquisition in the state of Maine, building on a 15-year conservation track record during which the organization made grants and loans totaling more than $13 million, helping Maine’s conservation groups and agencies protect more than 1.3 million acres.
The newly-completed project was made possible by a committed group of conservation partners including OSI; the Butler Conservation Fund and its subsidiary Maine River Trails; and The Nature Conservancy. The project totals 4,342 acres and will improve recreational opportunities on the East Branch for locals and visitors alike, with plans for campsites, a welcome center, canoe launch sites and trails.
While OSI will maintain ownership of the property, The Nature Conservancy holds a conservation easement on the river corridor property. The land transaction was facilitated by the seller of the property, Conservation Forestry, a timberland investment firm based in Exeter, New Hampshire. Maine River Trails will develop and manage recreational improvements on the land.
“The addition of the East Branch lands builds on OSI’s efforts to help conserve Maine’s recreational lands, pristine rivers and working forests,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s President and CEO. “We are grateful to our project partners and are particularly excited that through these new recreational opportunities and programs for families and students, we are laying the groundwork to support the next generation of land stewards and outdoor enthusiasts.”
“This stretch of the East Branch offers outstanding paddling,” added Elliman. “Making this land more accessible will enhance recreational opportunities to get more kids out on the river and in the woods. By guaranteeing and investing in more recreational opportunities this will provide a much-needed economic shot in the arm.”
The land features undeveloped shoreline, easy-to-moderate-difficulty paddling with reliable flow, and spectacular stands of mature silver maple floodplain forests. It also hosts high quality Atlantic salmon habitat.
With the land now conserved, public access will be improved for paddling and new trails will be constructed and maintained for hiking, biking, skiing, and snowshoeing. Traditional uses such as hunting and fishing will continue and the land will remain on the tax rolls.
The property will be incorporated into the Butler Conservation Fund’s Maine Outdoor Education Program, which exposes kids to physical activities in nature, helps promote good health, and develops an appreciation for the outdoors, nature, and conservation. The programs are run in collaboration with the local school systems.
Local groups, including the Katahdin Tourism Partnership, have identified the need for additional well-maintained and easily-accessible recreation activities in the region as a means to extend the visits of tourists and help local businesses. Located just 22 miles from Millinocket and 14 miles from East Millinocket, the project helps fill that need.