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OSI grant helps in West Grand Lake Heritage Lands preservation

The West Grand Lake Forest property wraps around the village of Grand Lake Stream, and is adjacent to other conservation lands, including the Downeast Lakes Land Trust’s 33,708-acre Farm Cove Community Forest. These lands lie in a broader landscape of nearly 1.4 million contiguous acres of public and private conservation lands extending across the border into New Brunswick, Canada.

Beginning in 2004, OSI has supported the protection of these lands through grants and loans from its Community Forest Fund and the Northern Forest Protection Fund.

“The Open Space Institute is pleased to have been able to help set the stage for today’s transaction,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s executive vice president. “Our support of the protection of this landscape dates back nearly a decade, and we’re primed to continue to support this outstanding effort as it moves forward through our Community Forest Fund.”

The West Grand Lake Forest conservation easement acquired today includes 17 miles of shoreline on West Grand, Big, and Lower Oxbrook lakes, along with frontage on Big Musquash Stream. It also conserves a quarter-mile on the west side of Grand Lake Stream and a 3,000-acre wetland complex.

This region boasts a renowned cold water fishery, as well as abundant moose, bear and deer and productive forests. 

“Grand Lake Stream has a rich heritage as a destination for outdoor recreation,” said Mark Berry, the executive director of Downeast Lakes Land Trust. “By permanently conserving these lands, and guaranteeing they will always be open to the public for recreation, we’re protecting that heritage and a way of life for future generations.”

In a unanimous vote at a November, 2008 town meeting, the citizens of Grand Lake Stream—population 109—appropriated $40,000 as a contribution to permanent conservation of the West Grand Lake Community Forest.

In addition to strong local support, the effort attracted leadership statewide. The honorary co-chairs of the West Grand Lake Community Forest Project are Governor Paul R. LePage, Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Senator Susan M. Collins, former Senator George J. Mitchell, Representative Michael H. Michaud, Representative Chellie M. Pingree, Passamaquoddy Tribal Governor Joseph Socobasin, Baskahegan company CEO Roger Milliken, Jr., and Seven Islands Land Company retired President John Cashwell.

The U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program selected this locally led project as the number one national forest conservation priority in 2011, awarding over $5.5 million. The Land for Maine’s Future Board awarded $1,250,000 to the project, which was the top-scoring conservation project in the most-recent round of grant proposals. In addition to OSI’s support, additional funding has been provided by the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, the Pew Charitable Trusts Northeast Land Trust Consortium, and many other foundations, businesses and individuals.

In 2008, the forest property was purchased by The Lyme Timber Company, after long-term ownership and management by the Webber family and Prentiss & Carlisle Company of Bangor.

This conservation easement purchase extends the option agreement between the land trust and Lyme Timber through 2015, providing opportunity to raise additional funds required to purchase the property outright. 

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