Second only to California, Maine leads the nation in total acres conserved by land trusts with almost 2 million acres according to the 2010 National Land Trust Census Survey.
And with the start of this year came the approval of Plum Creek’s Concept Plan for the Moosehead Region of Maine, allowing The Nature Conservancy to acquire an additional 363,000-acre forest conservation easement (see map below). This effort will preserve this land for public recreation, sustainable forestry, and fish and wildlife habitats.
St.Germain provided a Due Diligence Site Assessment for the Moosehead Forest conservation easement for the Nature Conservancy, and has conducted Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) on thousands of acres of Maine forestland for The Nature Conservancy, Downeast Lakes Land Trust, the Forest Society of Maine, and other similar organizations. These assessments are an important phase of land transactions and preservation efforts, as it verifies there are no environmental contamination problems with the site before acquisition.
Timberland ESAs pose a number of challenges when compared to conventional urban ESAs. Aerial surveys are often needed to inspect areas inaccessible by vehicle, historical spill records can be frustratingly vague (e.g., “50-gallon oil spill west of Fourth Machias Lake”), and abandoned logging camps can be difficult to find. St.Germain has developed procedures to deal with these problems, and luckily our staff doesn’t complain about having to spend days in the north Maine woods!
One such project was the roughly 6,600-acre Wabassus Lake Tract, where St.Germain conducted Phase I and II ESAs for the Downeast Lakes Land Trust. The site is located in Grand Lake Stream, and includes extensive shore frontage on Wabassus Lake, as well as 550 acres of wetlands. This land was available for sale and development, but is now preserved for the many local guided fishing and recreation expeditions, as well controlled logging and other low impact activities.
Maine’s economy depends upon the health of its natural resources, tourism, and in striking a balance between responsible development and conservation. Mainers are supportive of conservation efforts, as there are 99 land trusts in the state with roughly 3,800 volunteers and 41,000 members and benefactors. These groups have increased Maine’s conserved acres by 8% between 2005 and 2010, despite the economic downturn.
St.Germain encourages support of land trusts and other organizations that make conservation successes like these possible: