Franklin Countys First News

Ecological reserve to be established in western Maine, following land purchase

The Boundary Mountain Preserve. (Graphic by Dan Coke / The Nature Conservancy)

MERRILL STRIP TOWNSHIP - Following the purchase of 9,608 acres of land near the Canadian border, The Nature Conservancy announced last week that it will be creating an ecological reserve.

The acreage was purchased by the conservation organization from Bayroot, LLC to create the Boundary Mountains Preserve, The Nature Conservancy said in a press release. The land is adjacent to 22,000 acres of public land in Quebec and a roughly 8,000 acre parcel that another organization, the Forest Society of Maine, is working to purchase a conservation easement for. According to The Nature Conservancy, acquiring the Merrill Strip Township land further extends a corridor of more than 260,000 acres that links the White Mountains in New Hampshire, the foothills of western Maine and the Quebec borderlands.

Included within the Franklin County acquisition is 3,648-foot Caribou Mountain, 3,333-foot Merrill Mountain, and a dozen other peaks over 2,700 feet in elevation, as well as headwater habitat for the Kennebec River. Streams in Merrill Strip also feed the nearby Moose River, The Nature Conservancy said in the release, providing important habitat for wild brook trout. The high elevation areas within the parcel provide habitat for Bicknell's Thrush.

"We are thrilled to be able to continue connecting this landscape, which is critical to helping us face the effects of climate change,” said TNC in Maine State Director Kate Dempsey. “Connected, diverse ecosystems make us resilient and strong, and the conservation of this forestland is an immensely important piece of that puzzle.”

The Nature Conservancy said that acquiring the parcel was part of a larger strategy to address the impact of climate change through conservation. Specifically, The Nature Conservancy seeks to protect land with unique features such as steep slopes, ravines and diverse soil types that can withstand climate impacts provide a habitat for species.

“Creating large forest reserves—and locating them strategically in a variety of landscapes and forest types is an important conservation strategy,” says Dr. Malcolm Hunter, Jr., Libra Professor of Conservation Biology at the University of Maine. “Old forests have a special role in maintaining biodiversity, and they are very under-represented across the state."

Birding, hunting and fishing will be allowed within the Boundary Mountains Preserve, in accordance with state law, The Nature Conservancy said. Overnight camping and pets will not be permitted in order to protect local wildlife.

Prior to The Nature Conservancy acquiring the Merrill Strip Township property, a right of way was sold by the previous owner to Central Maine Power, affecting 17 acres in the northeast corner of the parcel along a roughly 1-mile route. The Nature Conservancy noted in its release that the organization "did not have an opportunity to influence the sale of this right of way and will receive no benefit if the transmission line project moves forward."

County Clerk Julie Magoon told county commissioners Tuesday that she had received a letter informing the county of the purchase. The Nature Conservancy had indicated in that letter that it intended to make payments in lieu of taxes on the parcel. A specific figure wasn't indicated in the letter; Magoon said that she will be speaking with The Nature Conservancy in September.

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