Thursday, April 24, 2014
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Mount Kineo rises near Moosehead Lake. The conservation easement covering 363,000 acres in the region is one of the largest in U.S. history, according to participants in the deal. They also hope the agreement will boost recreational tourism and improve the area’s struggling economy.
2007 photo by Fred Field
Rodney Folsom, co-owner of Folsom Realty Group, said real estate values in the area have fallen to levels last seen in 2002. Several lakefront lots that were selling for $200,000 in 2007 were sold recently for $65,000, he said.
"We're still coming out of a recession," Folsom said. "There's not much activity. I think it will be a few more years."
Promoting the conservation easement can help the Greenville area recover from the recession, said John Simko, who was town manager when the concept plan was worked out.
Greenville's economy has long relied on forest products and tourism. Both sectors suffered during the economic downturn, pushing the jobless rate in Piscataquis County over 11 percent -- well above the statewide average of 7.2 percent. With the land base secure for recreational access, businesses can do more to publicize the availability of the area's resources, Simko said.
"This land base has had an uncertain future for many generations," he said. "This conservation easement will make possible investment in much-needed permanent, outdoor recreational infrastructure, such as trails for hiking, biking and snowmobiling, all of which will enhance the outdoor experience for current and future visitors."
The 363,000-acre easement will be held by the Forest Society of Maine. It allows forestry that meets the standards of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and other conservation guidelines.
The terms of the easement guarantee public access for traditional recreational uses, including hunting, fishing, camping at designated sites, canoeing and cross-country skiing. The easement also protects access to 160 miles of trails that are used by hikers and snowmobilers.
The easement conserves habitat for dozens of protected fish and wildlife species, as well as 30 sites that have been identified as habitat for rare and endangered plants. The conserved area includes 200 miles of lakeshore, and lands near Moosehead – Maine's largest lake and the second-largest in New England – and 68 other lakes and ponds.
The easement provides a bridge between existing conservation lands in the region, including 44,000 acres that have recently been protected. They include 15,000 acres that The Nature Conservancy and the state have purchased, known as the Moose River Reserve. The reserve includes portions of Number 5 Bog and lands that provide access to the famous Moose River Bow Trip paddling route.
More than 29,500 acres, including more than 10 remote ponds near the Appalachian Trail's 100-Mile Wilderness, has been conserved by the Appalachian Mountain Club.
Staff Writer Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at: email@example.com