More than 210 miles of Machias River shoreline and stretches of key tributaries will grow wilder with every passing year. This is good news for wildlife roaming these forests, salmon spawning in cold clear waters and the public who will be enjoying guaranteed recreational access to one of Maine’s wildest rivers forever.
The 25,000-acre project combines outright purchase with conservation easements to protect river and stream shorelines from the outlet of Third Machias Lake east to Whitneyville - protecting wildlife habitat, requiring sustainable forestry and guaranteeing public access.
“The Machias River project is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect an entire river corridor,” says Kent Wommack, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy in Maine.
A 1,000 foot corridor on each side of the Machias and six major tributaries is protected from development activities while public access for traditional backcountry recreational activities, is guaranteed forever.
“From the beginning, this has been a shared vision with government, industry and community partners seeking the same ends,” Governor John Baldacci said recently. “Together we have worked to balance and protect the ecological, recreational and economic values of an whole river system.”
The Governor thanked The Nature Conservancy for leading negotiations with landowner International Paper on behalf of the Atlantic Salmon Commission and the Maine Department of Conservation, and commended Maine’s Congressional delegation and the Machias and East Machias Waterdhed Councils for playing essential roles at the federal and local levels.
The project ensures habitat for a wide variety of land and water species, such as moose, black bear, bobcat and migratory songbirds. The agreement permanently protects 86 percent of the Atlantic salmon habitat within the Machias river systyem—a full 20 percent of the remaining wild Atlantic salmon spawning and nursery habitat in the entire country.
Sustainable timber management designed to enhance wildlife habitat will follow guidelines pioneered by International Paper. The Atlantic Salmon Commission will hold and monitor the easement. As the landowner, International Paper will continue to own and manage both the forestland and the lease lots under the conservation easement.
“We have managed these river corridors with special forest practices for years,” said Dave Lieser, IP’s regional manager of Northern Operations for Forest Resources “We take great satisfaction in knowing that the State will continue to manage these unique habitats for their special values.”
The Maine Department of Conservation acquires several primitive campsites and water access sites within the easement area, and will manage recreational use. Sustainable forest management will also be required of any future landowner.
“This is an ecological and an economic win.””said Bill Cherry, Coordinator of the East Machias and Machias Watershed Councils, who helped manage woodlands for Champion and International Papers for 30 years.
Funding for the $7.8 million project comes from a variety of public and private sources, including a $2 million Recovery Land Acquisition Grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a $2 million Forest Legacy grant and $400,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Atlantic Salmon Initiative. The Land for Maine’s Future Board provided a $2.8 million for the project.
“Along with all of our conservation partners, we are delighted to have played an important role in completing the Machias River Corridor Project,” said Richard O. Bennett, Ph.D., acting regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Northeast.
In addition, The Nature Conservancy will provide $2 million toward the initiative, which includes a $1 million endowment to help the state steward the property. Phase II of the project, scheduled for 2004, involves the outright purchase of the river corridor from Third Machias Lake to Fifth Machias Lake.