Nearly Nine Miles of the Iconic East Branch of the Penobscot River to be Conserved: Recreation Access Improved and Guaranteed
June 21, 2016
Millinocket, ME – A group of partners reached an agreement today on a project that will conserve an 8.6-mile section of the iconic East Branch of the Penobscot River and a 1.2-mile section of Mud Brook while guaranteeing and improving access for recreation. The East Branch is recognized for its remarkable scenic beauty and its ecological significance. As important, this agreement will ensure that the East Branch can continue to serve as a hub for recreation for Maine people and visitors alike.
The project encompasses 4,342 acres and is located off the Grindstone Scenic Byway (Rt. 11) just north of the Medway/Millinocket area. As a result of the agreement, recreational opportunities on the East Branch will be improved, as new campsites, a welcome center, trails and other infrastructure are planned. The goal of the partnership is to increase opportunities for people of all ages to spend time on and along the river while protecting the ecological assets the river provides to all of Maine.
“I am very encouraged to see the Maine Outdoor Education Program expanding to have land and facilities for its own base of operations – the land and water trails available on the property and proximity to a good road will allow for school kids to spend even more time outdoors learning,” said Paul Sannicandro, a local guide and trail expert has worked directly with kids as a coach for the Maine Outdoor Education programs in the past.
The project was made possible by the Butler Conservation Fund and its subsidiary, Maine River Trails in partnership with the Open Space Institute and The Nature Conservancy, the holder of a conservation easement on the river corridor property. The land transactions, totaling 4,342 acres was facilitated by the seller of the property, Conservation Forestry, a timberland investment firm based in Exeter, New Hampshire and other landowners with common and undivided interest. Maine River Trails will develop and manage the recreational improvements and the Open Space Institute will own the land.
Conservation Forestry will continue to manage the more than 32,000 acres of productive timberland that immediately surrounds the project area, and this working forest will provide a long-term supply of timber and other economic benefits that support jobs in Maine. “We are happy to facilitate a transaction that protects this portion of the river forever and maintains the balance of our ownership in productive forestland for the benefit of our investors and the economy of Maine,” said Kent Gilges, Managing Member of Conservation Forestry.
Public access will be improved for paddling and new trails will be constructed and maintained for hiking, biking, skiing, and snowshoeing. Traditional uses such as hunting and fishing will continue and the land will remain on the tax rolls.
The property will be used as part of the Butler Conservation Fund’s Maine Outdoor Education Program, which exposes kids to physical activities in nature, helps promote good health and develops an appreciation for the outdoors, nature, and conservation. The programs are run in collaboration with the local school systems. Since its inception in 2012, some 3,000 students each year have participated in the Maine Outdoor Education Program. It builds on the highly successful model of Butler Conservation Fund’s outdoor education programs in New York State and other places.
“We want visitors to our region to have a variety of first class outdoor activities to choose from without having to travel long distances from the hotels and lodges where they are staying in town,” said Deb Rountree, Director of the Katahdin Region Higher Education Center and an active community volunteer involved in the Katahdin Revitalization organization.
The East Branch of the Penobscot is considered one of Maine’s best wild canoeing rivers. It features undeveloped shoreline, easy-to-moderate-difficulty paddling with reliable flow and scenic passage along spectacular stands of mature silver maple floodplain forests. It also hosts some of the best salmon habitat in the Penobscot Watershed; the cold resting pools, riffle-run habitat, and extensive floodplain forest which, as trees mature, die and fall into the river, adds large tree stems to help form diverse stream channels, pools, and provide shelter for fish.
“Students in this area need every advantage they can get and opportunities to experience a world class trail system and outdoor education can only benefit our kids,” said Jessica Masse, a local business owner who relocated to Medway with her family for the quality of life. “My family looks forward to the opportunities the land and programs will provide.”
Local groups, including the Katahdin Tourism Partnership, have identified the need for additional well-maintained and easily-accessible recreation activities in the region as a means to extend the visits of tourists and help local businesses. Located just 22 miles from Millinocket and 14 miles from East Millinocket, the project helps fill that need.
“This land purchase goes to the heart of our mission– it enhances recreational opportunities, conserves stretch of the iconic East Branch known for its habitat while engaging the next generation in outdoor education and conservation,” Kate Dempsey, State Director of The Nature Conservancy in Maine.
“The addition of the East Branch lands builds on OSI’s efforts to help conserve Maine’s recreational lands, pristine rivers and working forests.” said Kim Elliman, OSI President and CEO. “We are grateful to our project partners and are particularly excited that through these new recreational opportunities and programs for families and students, we are laying the groundwork to support the next generation of land stewards and outdoor enthusiasts.”
This property is outside of the proposed National Monument designation area and would not be part of the proposed national monument designation. The Nature Conservancy, Butler Conservation Fund and Open Space Institute do not take a position for or against a proposed national park or national monument in the Katahdin region and consider this project as completely independent.
Butler Conservation Fund (BCF) is a private foundation dedicated to the conservation, restoration, and protection of the environment as well as environmental education. It supports leading organizations working in the fields of environmental advocacy, land and water conservation, and related cultural, historical, educational, and social programs. For more information, visit www. butlerconservationfund.org
The Open Space Institute (OSI) protects scenic, natural and historic landscapes to provide public enjoyment, conserve habitat and working lands and sustain communities. Over the last 15 years, OSI has made grants and loans totaling more than $13 million to help Maine’s conservation groups and agencies protect over 1.3 million acres within the state. For more information, visit www.osiny.org.
Conservation Forestry (CF) is an investment organization that works to align private equity with conservation capital for the purpose of acquiring and managing large forest landscapes. CF does so in a manner that seeks to provide a competitive risk adjusted rate of return for its investors while enhancing the conservation values of the forests. For more information, visit www.conservationforestry.net
The Nature Conservancy (The Conservancy) is a science-based international, nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy works in all 50 states and in 69 countries and is supported by more than one million members. The Conservancy has been working in Maine for 58 years and is the 12th largest landowner in the state, owning and managing some 300,000 acres. The Nature Conservancy has been working in the Katahdin region for 15 years. The Conservancy owns and manages the Debsconeags Lakes Wilderness Area (with 30 miles of hiking trails and 25 campsites) as well as the Trout Mountain Preserve. In 2002 the Conservancy completed the 195,000-acre Katahdin Forest easement which is now held by the state of Maine to provide for public access and sustainable forest management. The Conservancy is actively working to connect conservation lands with local residents and visitors to the region and is a member of the Katahdin Tourism Partnership and the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce.
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 unprecedented scale, and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 65 countries, 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.