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OSI Support Creates New Community Forest in Sebago, Maine Watershed

Photo Credit: Jerry Monkman, SCW

SEBAGO, Maine — The Open Space Institute (OSI), The Trust for Public Land, and Loon Echo Land Trust today announced the successful creation of Maine’s newest community forest, Tiger Hill Community Forest. Protection of the land for the project will safeguard habitat for wildlife and will help preserve Sebago Lake — the water supply for one in six Mainers.

In the community forest model, local citizens participate in the planning and management of forests. In this tradition, the 1,400-acre Tiger Hill Community Forest will serve as a new town commons for local residents. The project is also a cornerstone of Sebago Clean Waters (SCW), a collaborative effort to protect the pristine waters of this forested watershed.

The project partners protected the land with support from OSI’s Community Forest Fund and Resilient Landscapes Initiative. In addition to its critical role in watershed protection, the land is highly “climate-resilient” — meaning that it will continue to harbor wildlife, even in an uncertain climate.

“This project is a thrilling victory in the effort to protect the life-giving Sebago Lake, and the places that will continue to provide a haven for animals and plants, even as the climate changes,” said Jennifer Melville, OSI’s Vice President for Conservation Grants. “We applaud the efforts of Sebago Clean Waters, The Trust for Public Land, and Loon Echo Land Trust in bringing this effort to fruition.”

Protecting places like Tiger Hill is essential to the health of 282,000-acre Sebago Lake watershed because intact forests act as a natural filter, producing clean water. Along with over 250,000 Maine citizens, countless wildlife species including brook trout, landlocked Atlantic salmon, and ospreys rely on the Sebago’s pristine water. But with only ten percent of Sebago’s watershed conserved, SCW partners have come together to accelerate the pace of land protection to secure clean water for future generations.

Founded in 2018, SCW is a collaboration of nine conservation organizations, including OSI, which works with land trusts, landowners, towns, businesses, and the Portland Water District. Together, the organizations and the public work to conserve key parcels in the watershed.

SCW’s goals are to conserve 25 percent of the Sebago Watershed in the next 15 years and build a $15 million water fund from new funding sources to support this conservation work.

“Tiger Hill Community Forest is a stellar example of multiple conservation organizations joining forces with the public and businesses like our local breweries to protect land that will benefit all of us,” said Karen Young, Coordinator of Sebago Clean Waters. “It is a conservation model that will serve us well in the future as we continue to conserve the forests critical to the region’s drinking water.”

The land is now owned by Loon Echo Land Trust and will be stewarded to meet community needs for generations to come. In addition to OSI, the Maine Natural Resources Conservation Program, Portland Water District, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, and many generous foundations and individuals provided funding. Allagash Brewing and Norway Savings Bank also directly supported the project.

“Land conservation supports robust outdoor recreation and wood products industries, while also preserving a traditional way of life here in Maine’s Sebago Lake region,” said Matt Markot, Executive Director of Loon Echo Land Trust. “The Tiger Hill Community Forest protects wildlife habitats, secures public access for recreation, and preserves working forestland. The property will also remain on municipal tax rolls, ensuring that the benefits of land conservation do not come at the expense of town budgets.”

Launched in 2014, OSI’s Resilient Landscapes Initiative, capitalized by the Doris Duke Charitable Fund, is on track to protect 55,000 acres in the U.S. Northeast and the Southeast. OSI’s Community Forest Fund has protected 40,000 acres and helped to create or expand 22 Community Forests throughout northern New England.

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