The waters of the Saco River will continue to lap up against silver maples each spring, providing habitat for songbirds, rare turtles and the people who canoe along rare floodplain forests in Western Maine, thanks to the conservation of 524 acres of land along the Saco River in Fryeburg, announced by The Nature Conservancy and the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust this week.
The silver maple floodplain forest along this stretch of the Saco River is one of the best examples of this rare habitat anywhere in the Northeast, according to Will Brune of The Nature Conservancy in Maine. In addition to harboring globally rare plants and animals, the forest captures much of the river’s heavy spring flow, protecting towns downstream from flooding.
“Each spring, the Saco River floods its banks into the forest. Some years, it’s even possible to paddle a canoe among stands of silver maple,” Brune said. “For the sake of wildlife and people living downstream, it is essential that we continue to work with landowners to save these natural resources.”
Throughout the region, floodplain forests were cleared and their rich soils converted to farmland or filled in and developed, making the Upper Saco River one of the last remaining examples of this once-common habitat type. This stretch of the Saco River is also a significant recreational resource which is enjoyed by hundreds of paddlers every year
Through a partnership between a private landowner, The Nature Conservancy, Upper Saco Valley Land Trust and the State of Maine, the 524 acres will remain in private ownership, subject to a conservation easement, which permits some sustainable forestry but protects this important habitat from development.
Funding for this project was provided by The Nature Conservancy and the Landowner Incentive Program (LIP), a competitive grant program managed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The program supports collaborative efforts to partner with private landowners to cultivate and fund conservation opportunities for critical habitats in the state. Since its inception in 2004, Maine has received more than $3 million in LIP funds to protect habitat. While federal support for this program has been eliminated, Maine has continued to distribute existing funds.
“The project is a great example of the importance of conservation by private landowners,” Brune said, citing a recent Nature Conservancy study which found that private land conservation is responsible for the protection of millions of acres of protected habitat in the Northeastern United States. “Collaborating with the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust and local landowners allowed us all to make a much bigger difference,” Brune said.
“We are extremely grateful to all of our project partners − the landowners, The Nature Conservancy, and Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife − for their perseverance over the years to protect this spectacular piece of conservation land,” said Tom Earle, President of the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust.
More information about floodplain forests in New England is available at: http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/connecticut/connecticutriver/a-future-for-floodplain-forests.xml.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
Senior Media Relations Manager
The Nature Conservancy
Land Protection Specialist
Upper Saco Valley Land Trust