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Wide Open Spaces, Unpolluted Skies, Conservation Land, Sustainable Communities

Photo credit: Tom Meredith/USFWS

What region comes to mind?  It’s northwestern New Hampshire and Maine; and it’s how large-scale habitat protection happens.  Northern New England has been flagged as an invaluable ecological unit for adaptation to climate change so habitat protection is essential here.  We can all benefit from supporting a local, grassroots approach to conservation in the Northeast corner of the US.

The Upper Androscoggin Watershed and High Peaks Region in New Hampshire and Maine exemplify what happens when private landowners and government work together for the ultimate benefit of the community and the planet.

This area has:

- Approximately 2 million acres
- Over 100 “Great Ponds” (i.e. greater than ten acres),
- Over 450 miles of named rivers
- Over 3,000 miles of perennial and intermittent streams
- Numerous mountains over 2,700 feet in elevation, the refugia zone for spruce fir forest during past climate warming events
- Large blocks of core conservation lands, building blocks for landscape scale conservation

It’s a valuable forested area and habitat that successfully demonstrates multiple use around conservation, outdoor recreation, sustainably forestry and healthy communities.

The region’s qualities have been recognized in numerous public vetted processes, e.g. the Department of Interior ‘America’s Great Outdoors’ Initiatives and the Nature Conservancy’s “Resilient Sites for Terrestrial Conservation in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Region”.

An effort between the Appalachian Mountain Club, The Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust, and The Trust for Public Land is the collaborative that drives this plan.  The goal is to build on and connect large continuous blocks of land. They do this by:

- Identifying contiguous blocks of land to protect key parcels
- Reaching out to the communities to garner input and ideally public support
- Brokering land transactions – identify new land funding, financing and ownership mechanisms
- Balancing land protection with economic development through sustainable forestry and outdoor recreation 

Successes to date:

- 31,000 acres contiguous to the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge protected
- Over $20 million raised since 2005
- $5 million Maine Land Protection Bond passed in November 2012

Challenges to completing the project:

- Local misunderstandings that land protection reduces local taxes
- Lack of knowledge that fiber supplies and forestry jobs today are influenced by past intensive harvesting above sustainable rates and mechanization in the industry, not by land protection that permits sustainable forestry.
- Lower land prices in tight economic times are opportunities for conservation, but funding is difficult to achieve
- Partial dismantling of the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC)

Call to Action

This initiative has targeted an additional 50,000 acres, requiring more than $20 million in acquisition costs that need to be raised to make it happen.

Currently almost one-third of this area has conservation protection. For the area’s full potential to be met, additional buffer land protection to and connectivity between the Mahoosucs, Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, the Rangeley Lakes region protected lands and western Maine High Peaks region is needed.

Please consider donating directly to, joining and supporting the partner organizations doing this vital work:

Appalachian Mountain Club: The oldest US conservation and recreation organization with a focus on the northeastern US. It has been a leader in Northern Forest protection through its research, ability to mobilize outdoor enthusiast and to pull different interest groups together, and advocacy.

The Trust for Public Land: A national organization that makes land transactions happen.  They have brokered protection of more than 200,000 acres in this region alone.

Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust: Maine based, works with state and federal government, conservation organizations, corporations and individuals to protect the unique character of northwestern Maine.

Contact Heather Clish, AMC’s Director of Conservation & Recreation Policy, hclish@outdoors.org, 617-391-6580 with any further questions.


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