The average Maine tourist might think that Maine is mostly about lobsters, lighthouses, and rugged coastlines. But Maine is also well-known for its land preservation, especially among the iconic 100-Mile Wilderness.
Thanks to two powerhouse non-profits, that area has expanded to include another nearly 30,000 acres in Piscataquis County. The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) and The Conservation Fund collaborated to purchase Barnard Forest for $15.2 million, a property that abuts the wilderness.
Expanding the famed forested footprint of the 100-Mile Wilderness allows access to land closed off to the public for two decades. Fish habitat restoration and responsible forestry also remain paramount.
“For people unfamiliar with the Barnard Forest, it lies in the heart of Maine’s 100-Mile Wilderness,” says Nicole Zussman, President and CEO of the Appalachian Mountain Club.
“This is an area with intact forests, lakes, and ponds. It’s an ecological powerhouse and a premier destination for backcountry outdoor recreation. AMC owns over 100,000 acres contiguous with the Barnard Forest, as well as three lodges; 130 miles of hiking, gravel biking, and ski trails; and beautiful opportunities for paddling. We are so thrilled to be working with The Conservation Fund to bring the Barnard Forest under our permanent care so visitors to Maine can experience more of this incredible landscape.”
It will take about two years to complete AMC’s vision for Barnard Forest, but work is already underway. The land connects to ATV and snowmobile trails, a popular way to get around throughout Maine’s four seasons.
At a time when Acadia National Park is seeing record numbers of visitors, it’s important for visitors to know about all the preserved and conserved land throughout the state. Especially those who want to get away from the crowds and find the answer to the famous question, “Where can I see a moose?”
Maine’s 100-Mile Wilderness defines adventure, nature, and wildlife in the Pine Tree State. It’s the final stretch on the Appalachian Trail (AT), winding through some of the infamous trek’s toughest and most rewarding miles. It’s a mothership for water lovers, where you can chase waterfalls and explore the rivers and lakes you’ve only ever dreamed of.
Words like ‘NoBo’ (northbound on the AT), ‘bushwhacking’, and ‘fording waterways’ are part of the common vocabulary. This untamed wilderness is the most epic place to unplug and escape to nature in Maine. And now, it’s even larger.
“We are thrilled to be working with The Conservation Fund and all of our local partners and supporters to permanently conserve and reopen the Barnard Forest for forestry, for fish, and for people,” said Steve Tatko, AMC Vice President of Conservation Research and Land Management and area native.
“This crucial addition to the MWI landscape will allow us to protect from development one of the most significant forested regions of the eastern U.S. We are encouraged to take on this project through the skill of our local partners and contractors who have become leaders in their field for forestry and conservation work right here in Piscataquis County.”
The tenacious work in Maine’s wilderness has allowed a homecoming for the Atlantic salmon for the first time in 200 years. Barnard Forest will widen the fish habitat restoration efforts, which helps protect endangered species like native brook trout and Atlantic salmon.
Work on the west branch of the Pleasant River and the greater Penobscot River drainage has reopened 110 miles of stream habitat. At the same time, they’ve removed 100 culverts, allowing streams to flow naturally and providing a more efficient waterway for Atlantic salmon egg planting.
The Maine Woods Initiative by AMC has spent 20 years working to protect more than 100,000 acres of wilderness and waterways. That’s double the size of Acadia National Park and nearly 15% larger than Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
Purchased from the Elliotsville Foundation for $15.2 million, AMC took ownership of the property’s northern section, while The Conservation Fund and The Malone Family Land Preservation Foundation secured the southern part. This arrangement allowed AMC and The Conservation Fund to gather the necessary funds for AMC to gain complete ownership eventually.
“The Barnard Forest addition is an outstanding example of creating opportunities for public recreation, forest restoration, and sea-run fish passage at a landscape-scale. The benefits to people, the economy, and the climate of the combined conserved lands are unparalleled in the northern forest of New England,” said Tom Duffus, Vice President and Northeast Representative for The Conservation Fund in Maine.
“Permanent funding for this project will be critical to its success.”
Learn more about how to make a donation through the AMC website.