A rainbow arches over Caribou Mountain in the 9,608-acre newly-conserved forest.
Boundary Mountain Preserve A rainbow arches over Caribou Mountain in the 9,608-acre newly-conserved forest. © Mark Berry/TNC

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Important Forest Habitat Conserved in Western Maine

The Nature Conservancy’s purchase of 9,608 acres in western Maine creates new “Boundary Mountains Preserve.”

An important link in a large swath of contiguous forest has been conserved, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Maine announced today. The conservation organization's purchase of 9,608 acres from Bayroot, LLC, lies directly adjacent to over 22,000 acres of public lands in Quebec, and next to a roughly 8,000-acre property where the Forest Society of Maine is working with a private landowner to purchase a conservation easement. The acquisition extends a corridor of permanently conserved lands northward to a total of over 260,000 acres, representing a key link in a major pathway of ecological connection from the White Mountains in New Hampshire through the western Maine Mountains and Quebec borderlands and beyond. The property will be known as the Boundary Mountains Preserve.

Wetlands with spruce in background and blue sky.
DIVERSE HABITATS From wetlands like this to mountain ridges, the now-protected lands have great diversity of habitats. © Mark Berry/TNC

TNC has acquired a healthy, mature mountain forest that runs along 12 miles of the border with Quebec, Canada. It contains important headwater habitat for the Kennebec River and is adjacent to the watershed of the Chaudière River, which flows north to join the St. Lawrence at Quebec City. Located in Franklin County, the property includes 3,648-foot Caribou Mountain, 3,333-foot Merrill Mountain, and a dozen other peaks over 2,700 feet in elevation. Its mountains are part of the skyline visible from western Maine mountains, including Bigelow, Sugarloaf, Saddleback, the peaks around Attean and Moosehead Lakes, Tumbledown, and many more, as well as Mont Mégantic and Lac Mégantic in Quebec. The property's headwater streams also feed into the nearby Moose River and provide important habitat for wild brook trout.

TNC intends to manage the forest as an ecological reserve, where the forest is shaped by natural processes such as wind, ice, and other weather events. Beyond providing valuable wildlife habitat, ecological reserves are important to scientists studying the growth of forests and how they respond, in the absence of timber harvesting, to challenges such as climate change, forest pests, diseases, and airborne pollution. Maintaining the carbon stored in this mature forest and providing opportunity for trees to continue pulling carbon from the atmosphere also benefits the climate (learn more about Maine forests’ role as a Natural Climate Solution).

Connected, diverse ecosystems make us resilient and strong, and the conservation of this forestland is an immensely important piece of that puzzle.

Kate Dempsey Maine State Director, The Nature Conservancy

“We are thrilled to be able to continue connecting this landscape, which is critical to helping us face the effects of climate change,” said TNC in Maine State Director Kate Dempsey. “Connected, diverse ecosystems make us resilient and strong, and the conservation of this forestland is an immensely important piece of that puzzle.”

This acquisition is part of a larger strategy by TNC to address the effects of climate change through conservation. Wildlife species in North America are shifting their ranges an average of 11 miles north and 36 feet in elevation each decade. Many species are approaching–or have already reached–the limit of where they can go to find hospitable climates. Research by TNC and partners also shows that nearly 60 percent of U.S. lands and waters are fragmented by human development, preventing species from finding new and more hospitable habitat.

TNC has used innovative science to identify a network of special places across the United States that can withstand climate impacts and provide safe havens where species can live and thrive. These safe havens contain unique features, such as steep slopes, ravines, and diverse soil types. In addition, TNC has mapped connected ecosystems that are expected to be important for the movement of plants and animals as climate change alters the landscape. This analysis drives TNC’s strategic conservation efforts.

Map of Maine, showing protected 9,608 acres.
Boundary Mountain Preserve The preserve borders public land in Quebec. © Dan Coker/TNC
Hands holding a brook trout in the water.
BROOK TROUT Wild Eastern brook trout are among the many wildlife species that thrive in the cool streams of these lands. © Fauna Creative

“The climate is changing, and this can have dire effects on plants and animals,” said Jessica Levine, who leads TNC’s Conserving Land & Water Strategy in the northeast and coordinates the Staying Connected Initiative. “For species to persist and thrive into the future, we need to provide space for them to move and adapt. This means safeguarding natural pathways—including those that cross our human-made borders.”

“The Nature Conservancy is using science to direct conservation action and resources toward the most important lands that can support both people and nature now and into the future,” said Mark Berry, forest program director for TNC in Maine. “This acquisition moves us closer to a future that gives plant and animal species the greatest chance to survive growing climate threats, while providing human communities with opportunities to thrive.”

“Creating large forest reserves—and locating them strategically in a variety of landscapes and forest types is an important conservation strategy,” says Dr. Malcolm Hunter, Jr., Libra Professor of Conservation Biology at the University of Maine. “Old forests have a special role in maintaining biodiversity, and they are very under-represented across the state.” 

A small pool in a forest stream.
Cool Waters Shady pools and rocky stream beds provide habitat for native brook trout. © Mark Berry/TNC

“Wagner and Bayroot congratulate The Nature Conservancy on its acquisition of Merrill Strip,” said Dan Hudnut, President of Wagner Forest Management, the manager of Bayroot LLC. “The property’s extensive high elevation areas are a natural focal point for conservation, and provide habitat for Bicknell’s Thrush, one of the region’s highest avian conservation priorities.”

Prior to TNC’s acquisition of the property, a right of way was sold by the previous owner to Central Maine Power for the proposed New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line corridor. The right of way affects 17 acres in the northeast corner of the property, along a route of approximately one mile. TNC did not have an opportunity to influence the sale of this right of way and will receive no benefit if the transmission line project moves forward.

TNC welcomes people to enjoy recreation at the Boundary Mountains Preserve, including birding, hunting, and fishing, in accordance with state law. Visitors should be aware there is no recreational infrastructure, and overnight camping and pets are not permitted in order to protect the natural processes and wildlife. The preserve can be accessed via private seasonal woods roads, most directly from the Carrabassett Valley and Rangeley regions via Chain of Ponds to the south, and also from the Jackman region to the east. TNC believes this land was long stewarded by the Abenaki People; today, the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Penobscot Indian Nation steward nearby lands.

TNC is using revenue from an innovative forest carbon offset project in their Upper St. John River Forest as well as private donations to fund the purchase. “We knew how important it was to conserve this forestland for nature and for future generations of Mainers,” added Kate Dempsey. “Now we're counting on supporters of conservation to join us in this effort, as they have so many times before.”

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.