Down East 2013 ©
The Future of Forest Conservation: Twenty years ago, my stump speech reported that the future of sportsmen on public land was challenged, due to many competing interests, but we were in good shape on private land where large landowners welcomed us with few restrictions.
Today it’s all changed.
We are blessed with lots of opportunities on public lands — including hunting on undeveloped lands in state parks. We’re in trouble on private lands.
Posting on small private ownerships throughout the state is an epidemic, for many reasons from illegal waste dumping to abuse by ATV riders. And new owners of large parcels — primarily in the north woods — are not as welcoming as previous owners.
I have even predicted that these new owners, most of which are investment companies, will begin private leasing of recreational property in the near future. They are looking for ways to maximize their investment income, and harvesting trees is not sufficient to meet their goals.
In most parts of the country, private leasing is common. In some states, it’s nearly impossible to find private land that is accessible for public recreation.
That’s why Maine’s two decades of land conservation is so important. Maine has done an outstanding job of buying the rights and opportunities enjoyed by the public on private lands.
Through an astonishingly successful collaborative effort by state and federal agencies, the nonprofit conservation community, and advocacy groups representing environmentalists, sportsmen, and other outdoor recreationists, Maine’s outdoor heritage is being secured for future generations.
Although we’ve purchased a fee (ownership) interest in some lands, most of our purchases have been in the form of easements. Some purchased development rights, to keep the land undeveloped. Most purchased both development and access rights.
One of the key funding sources for this effort has been the federal Forest Legacy Program. I served on the Legacy Program’s advisory board during a period when Maine dominated the federal program, receiving most of the funds allocated for the entire country.
Today, many other states have taken notice of the program, and Maine is generally unable to fund more than a single project each year. But this program remains a very important source of funds for land conservation in Maine.
Alan Stearns, lead staff member for Forest Legacy at Maine’s Department of Conservation, issued a recent notice of pending projects for Legacy funding in FY 2012. The Legacy Advisory Committee will meet on July 19 to act on two major projects.
One is called Western Maine High Peaks Conservation Project. The Trust for Public Land, Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust, and the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust is requesting $6.45 million of federal funds toward acquisition of a working forest fee ownership in the town of Carrabasset Valley in Franklin County. The ownership would be purchased from Plum Creek and go to the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.
This project includes a request for $1.34 million toward acquisition of a BPL conservation easement on 5,945 acres in Madrid Township in Franklin County from Linkletter Timberlands LLC.
Other tracts of land may be added to this project in the future.
The second project is East Grand Watershed Initiative, and involved the Conservation Fund with the Woodie Wheaton Land Trust and BPL.
The proposal requests $6.98 million in Forest Legacy funding toward acquisition of a working forest conservation easement on 12,013 acres in two organized towns in southern Aroostook County from landowner Typhoon LLC (managed by Wagner Timberlands).
More information on the Forest Legacy Program is available on the Web site of the Maine Department of Conservation .
Rangeley Region Ice Fishing Proposed: Most of the lakes and ponds in the Rangeley region are closed to ice fishing, a traditional closure that recognizes the area’s primary attraction as an open-water fishing destination.
A recent petition to open a few of the region’s ponds for ice fishing has drawn quite a bit of attention.
The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife received a petition from anglers in the region to open the following waters to ice fishing: West Richardson Pond, Gull Pond, Loon Lake, and Saddleback Lake. The daily bag limit on trout would be two fish, and on salmon one fish, with a two-line restriction and a prohibition on the use of live bait.
A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for June 30, 2010, at 6:30 p.m. at the Rangeley Region Guides and Sportsman’s Association on Old Skiway Lane, Oquossic.
Written comments may be submitted until July 12 to Andrea Erskine , DIF&W, #41 State House Station, Augusta 04333-0041.