WELLS — The Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve and town of Wells have added a 61-acre parcel of land to one of the largest blocks of conservation land in southern Maine.

The Highpine Properties parcel includes forested wetlands, vernal pools and the headwater streams of the Merriland River. The undeveloped tract has frontage on Sanford Road and is nestled into the 700-acre Fenderson Wildlife Commons, a town conservation area.

The groups raised $170,000 in cash and in-kind donations to purchase the land from Howard Hall, president of Highpine Properties LLC. The company bought the land from a developer several years ago with the intention of conserving it for the town.

“Two years ago the landowner challenged us to do this without using town funds,” said Wells Conservation Commission member Keith Fletcher in a prepared statement. “While the town of Wells does have a fund for buying land, we were able to meet the challenge thanks to numerous contributors. The property owner also sold the land well below market value.”

Paul Dest, director of the Wells Reserve, said protecting land in the Merriland River watershed is a priority of the organization.

“The Merriland is one of four rivers that flow into our estuaries, so we are delighted to see the river’s headwaters protected as part of this landscape-scale conservation effort,” he said.

The Merriland River originates in western Wells and meanders for six miles before meeting Branch Brook to form the Little River.