The aptly-named Crooked River winds its way through a contiguous block of over 3,280 acres of forest managed by Hancock Land Company. This region is known as the Jugtown Plains. The forest's core is a highly unusual pitch pine heath, which is considered not only the state's most important example of this natural community, but an outstanding example in an ecoregion stretching from southern Maine to northern Maryland. Pitch pine forests of all types, once nearly unbroken as they swept down the eastern coastline, are under siege everywhere by development.
In winter, it's not uncommon to see dogsledders whisk along tote roads or a family snowmobiling on trails maintained by the Crooked River and Muddy River SnoSeekers Snowmobile Clubs. The warmer seasons bring a greater diversity of recreational uses, from hunting and hiking to horseback riding, blueberry picking and birding and, of course, canoeing and fishing on the river.
The Nature Conservancy purchased a conservation easement on Jugtown Plains that will protect a variety of natural and recreational features. To fund the easement purchase, the Land for Maine's Future Board awarded an $195,000 grant for Jugtown. Additionally, the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund awarded a grant for $70,000 and The Nature Conservancy provided $80,000 in cash and in-kind support.
The Bureau of Parks and Lands holds the conservation easement, which prevents development, ensures continued public recreational access, protects and maintains the rare pitch pine-heath, and allows for continued sustainable management for timber products. To minimize stewardship costs to the Bureau, the Conservancy agreed to monitor the easement and work with the owner on a plan to protect and maintain the pitch pine-heath, including the use of prescribed fire if needed.