Paul Rezendes Kennebago8 Looking W towards Uplands

The Open Space Institute Supports 5,000-Acre Kennebago Headwaters Expansion in Northern Maine for Habitat, Carbon Storage

STETSONTOWN TOWNSHIP, ME (October 23, 2023) – More than 5,000 acres in Maine's Kennebago Uplands have been permanently protected with support from the Open Space Institute's (OSI) Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund (ALPF). The Rangleley Lakes Heritage Trust (RHLT) project completes the second of a three-phase effort to conserve the Kennebago Headwaters, one of the most resilient and intact wild brook trout fisheries in the United States and a watershed with exceptional habitat for fish, wildlife, and birds.

Thanks to its varied elevations and complex hydrology including cold headwater streams, deep lakes, bogs, and extensive wetlands, the Kennebago Headwaters is a bastion of fish and wildlife resilience against climate change. The watershed hosts a network of dirt roads providing a vital route for transportation of sustainable forest products and access for camp owners and outdoor enthusiasts, who are essential to the region's economy.

OSI’s ALPF catalyzes land protection along the Appalachian Mountain range — an area stretching from Canada to Alabama that is home to the world’s largest broadleaf forest, stores most of the nation’s forest carbon, and provides essential refuge for plants and animals at risk of habitat loss from climate change. The Fund is made possible thanks to major support from the Doris Duke Foundation and additional funding from Jane’s Trust and other private foundations.

Paul Rezendes Kennebago2
Little Kennebago Lake surrounded by Wildlands, looking at Kennebago Uplands
Image Credit: Paul Rezendes

"The Open Space Institute was proud to help make this conservation victory possible through our Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund," said Joel Houser, OSI's Director of Capital Grants. "The ALPF was developed to protect the Appalachian Range and surrounding land, which harbors a vast amount of atmospheric carbon and provide sanctuary for wildlife in a warming climate. Conservation of this land safeguards vulnerable species and invaluable land for climate protection. We congratulate our partners at RLHT for this wonderful environmental achievement."

"Our vision for the million-acre Rangeley Lakes Region is a place of healthy, interconnected ecosystems--a mosaic of conserved lands that deliver long-term, significant benefits--ecological, economic, and social--to our community," stated David Miller, Executive Director of RLHT.

This critical project began with the purchase of the Kennebago Wildlands, 1,731 acres of forest, shorefront, and wetlands, including more than two miles of undeveloped shorefront and uplands surrounding the 190-acre Little Kennebago Lake and nine miles of frontage on the upper Kennebago River.

Phase two is RLHT's current purchase of the Kennebago Uplands, a working forest that RLHT will manage to conserve fish and wildlife habitat and enhance climate change resilience. Forest management will focus on sustainable harvesting for long-term health, increased carbon storage, sequestration, and biodiversity.

Anticipated to close in December, the third phase of the Headwaters Acquisition is to acquire a conservation easement of 3,000 adjacent acres along the shores of Kennebago Lake and the surrounding wetland area known as the Logans. The acreage was recently acquired by Black Brook, LLC, which has been working with RLHT on a conservation easement to conserve those areas permanently.

RLHT plans to manage the land for its significant fish and wildlife habitat, public recreation, and as a working forest. Through land acquisition, RLHT has secured public access for such traditional uses as hiking, fishing, boating, hunting, and trapping.

Together, these contiguous acquisitions will protect 998 wetland acres and 15 miles of largely intact, wooded riparian area on the Kennebago River and smaller tributary streams.

RLHT also received $1.6 million to help conserve the headwaters of the Kennebago River and its outstanding fish and wildlife resources through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services' North American Wetlands Conservation Act and $1 million to restore the upper Kennebago watershed with a Congressionally Directed Spending grant through the office of Senator Susan Collins.

"The Kennebago River and its watershed play a key role in sustaining the health of Maine's environment by providing high-quality habitats for fish, migratory birds, and other wildlife," said Senators Collins and Angus King in a joint statement. "We welcome this important investment in conservation, which will help preserve the Kennebago River's pristine waters and provide fishing and other outdoor recreational opportunities for Mainers."

The Forest Society of Maine will hold an easement on the Kennebago Uplands. This parcel is the fifth RLHT conservation project completed with Bayroot, LLC and Wagner Forest Management (landowner and manager), including the Kennebago Wildlands, South Bog Conservation Area, the Cupsuptic Lake Park and Campground, and Height of Land.

In addition to OSI's ALPF, RLHT's funders for the project include an anonymous donor, The Conservation Fund, the EJK, Firebird, PARC, and Summerhill Foundations, the State of Maine's Land for Maine's Future program, the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Gulf of Maine Coastal Program, and private donors. Partners include the Forest Society of Maine, Bayroot LLC, Wagner Forest Management, Black Brook LLC, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, The Rangeley Region Guides and Sportsmen Association, The Nature Conservancy of Maine, Trout Unlimited, M&H Construction, Field Geology, Dirigo Engineering, Dirigo Timberlands, US Fish and Wildlife Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, Seven Island’s Land Company, Maine Natural Areas Program, The Wilderness Society, the Maine Mountain Collaborative and many others.

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