scene across a lake at forested land and a low mountain.
Conserved Forest The view across Narraguagus Lake © Tom Pakulski

Newsroom

Land Purchase Permanently Conserves 13,500 Acres in Downeast Maine

The Nature Conservancy and partners protect valuable habitat north of Tunk Mountain in the Narraguagus River watershed

The Nature Conservancy in Maine (TNC) announced today that it has acquired fee ownership of the approximately 13,500-acre Spring River–Narraguagus Forest property in Hancock County, west of Cherryfield.

Conservation of this property will help maintain a forested connection between the Downeast coast and Maine's north woods, protecting habitat for wide-ranging wildlife and allowing species to move in response to a changing climate. The property includes 3.75 miles of shoreline on Narraguagus Lake, nearly completing conservation of the shoreline of the headwater lake for Spring River, as well as two miles of frontage on the north side of Spring River, seven miles of frontage on the West Branch of the Narraguagus River, and 46 miles of interior tributary streams. This land is important as a buffer for high value aquatic habitat that supports native brook trout fisheries and contributes to important Atlantic salmon habitat.

These lands are part of the traditional territory of Wabanaki people, and they retain cultural significance to the Wabanaki today. TNC respectfully acknowledges these People of the Dawn – past, present, and future – and their sacred connection to these lands and waters.

The acquisition expands TNC’s 9,700-acre Spring River Preserve, which was acquired in 2005, to a total of approximately 23,500 acres. TNC intends to manage a majority of the forest as an ecological reserve, where the forest is shaped by natural processes such as wind, ice, and other weather events. TNC’s Spring River Preserve also directly abuts the ecological reserve maintained by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands on a portion of the Donnell Pond Unit of Public Reserved Lands.

“This announcement is important news for biodiversity in the face of a changing climate,” said Mark Berry, Forest Program Director for The Nature Conservancy in Maine. “It expands an ecological reserve to a size that can support the movement of plants and animals, helping maintain a critical pathway for species to move across the landscape between the Downeast coast and northern Maine. It will also benefit important aquatic habitat in the Narraguagus River watershed.”

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).

Map of spring river project area
Spring River Project map of the land acquisition © Dan Coker

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, diverse soil types, and wetlands. 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 is a primary driver of TNC’s strategic land conservation efforts.

The acquisition completes a collaborative effort between The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT), New England Forestry Foundation, Blue Hill Heritage Trust, and Downeast Salmon Federation that now has conserved more than 17,000 acres of forestland to protect wildlife habitat, ensure future recreational access, and support the economies of nearby coastal communities. The Conservation Fund acquired this property and two other nearby properties in 2018 and held them temporarily, providing time and opportunity for TNC, Blue Hill Heritage Trust, and New England Forestry Foundation to raise funding for the purchases. Federal grants were received through competitive programs funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the North American Wetland Conservation Act.

“Conservation like this is only possible through excellent partnerships,” said Kate Dempsey, State Director of The Nature Conservancy in Maine. “The Conservation Fund, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, as well as private foundations and individuals all played key roles in this success. This project exemplifies the sort of innovative collaboration we need to make critical progress in the face of climate change.”

“This unique Maine Coastal Forest Partnership brings each organization together to protect at-risk forests from fragmentation and development,” said Tom Duffus, Vice President at The Conservation Fund. “We’re grateful to have been a part of this effort for the past several years while we owned and managed the forest. Now under TNC’s ownership, its resources such as upland forests, waterways, and Atlantic salmon habitat will continue to support both environmental and economic benefits for generations.”

“We are proud to partner with The Nature Conservancy on this project, and more broadly on the rivers initiative to help connect coastal rivers to the sea,” said Tim Glidden, President of Maine Coast Heritage Trust. “This work improves fish passage and the quality of the land along the shore, creates more recreational opportunities, and restores ecosystems critical to the sustainability of Maine’s fishing industry -- all part of our efforts to create resilience in the face of climate change.”

The property will be open to all people to access for uses such as birding, hunting, and fishing. Visitors should be aware there is limited recreational infrastructure, roads are seasonal, and overnight camping and pets are not permitted in order to protect natural processes and wildlife.

About The Nature Conservancy in Maine

Since the chapter’s founding in 1956, The Nature Conservancy has helped to protect over 1.7 million acres in Maine. Our forest program seeks to conserve forests that are essential to Maine’s economy and quality of life and globally significant ecologically and for carbon sequestration in a changing climate. Learn more at nature.org/maine. For more information about the Spring River-Narraguagus Forest, contact Mark Berry, 207-607-4856.

About The Conservation Fund

At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect nearly 8.5 million acres of land, including over 465,000 acres in Maine. Learn more at www.conservationfund.org.

About Maine Coast Heritage Trust

MCHT is a dynamic, multifaceted organization with initiatives ranging from preserving coastal access for communities to reconnecting waterways and improving coastal resiliency to climate change. A leader in Maine’s land conservation efforts since 1970, MCHT maintains a growing network of almost 150 coastal and island preserves free and open to everyone and leads the 80-member Maine Land Trust Network to ensure that land conservation provides benefits to all Maine communities. Learn more at www.mcht.org

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 75 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 38 through partners, 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.