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Federal Funds to Help Preserve Land in Maine's Franklin County
01/19/2012   Reported By: Keith Shortall

The U.S. Forest Service announced today that Maine is getting more than $8 million for the conservation of nearly 12,000 on Crocker Mountain in Carrabassett Valley and close to 6,000 acres near Madrid on Orbeton Stream. Maine is the only state to receive two awards.

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Butch Blazer, deputy undersecretary for the U.S. Forest Service, says the grants under The Forest Legacy Program are highly competitive. So it's significant that Maine would get funding for two projects, both in Franklin County, that will protect working forest, public access and critical habitat, and prevent development, which Blazer says threatens so much privately-owned forestland every year.

"We have approximately 1.5 million acres that are at risk each year, acres that we're at risk of losing," Blazer says. "That's what these funds are used to help protect."

The protected parcels include nearly 12,000 acres of working forest owned by the developer Plum Creek on Crocker Mountain that buffers 10 miles of the Appalachian Trail, and about 6,000 acres of property around Orbeton Stream, which is critical habitat for both endangered Atlantic salmon and native brook trout.

Both will be available for public uses, such as hiking, fishing, cross country skiing, mountain biking and snowmobiling on a trail system through the Orbeton property. Timber harvesting will also continue in both places.

"We're just very, very pleased," says Maine Department of Conservation Commissioner William Beardsley. Beardsley says the governor views the project as as an example of what a 21st century natural resource-based economy can look like. It protects fish and forestry and, Beardsley says, puts a new focus on outdoor recreation.

"We see this as a real, what I call private-public sector initiative to really help Sugarloaf become a truly international, year-round, four-season destination--not Sugarloaf, but the Carrabassett Valley Township," he says.

The project was a joint effort, involving the Linkletter family, which owns the Orbeton Stream property and operates a timber company there; the Land for Maine's Future program; the Penobscot Nation; the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust and the town of Carrabassett Valley.

Wolfe Tone is the director of the Maine Trust for Public Land, which is helping raise close to a million dollars to complete the deal. "Conservation funding is still relevant, it's still important and Maine's landscape spoke for itself," he says. "And we had the right team in place to protect--to kind of move the effort forward in protecting all these values."

Tone says help from the governor's office and Maine's two senators were crucial for the federal grant. And while the 17,000 acres may not seem significant in size, Tone says it is strategically much larger, since a block of land more than 77,000 acres in size will now be conserved.

Susan Sharon contributed to this report.


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