BRIDGTON – Loon Echo Land Trust, based in Bridgton, purchased the 1,600-acre Perley Mills Community Forest from K&W Timberlands last month.

The land located in Bridgton, Denmark and Sebago was placed under contract in October 2012, and since then $1.42 million has been raised from local families and businesses, grant-making foundations and municipal appropriations.

This vast forest is now conserved and owned by Loon Echo. However, there are a few more steps to be taken to complete the project, said Executive Director Carrie Walia. Loon Echo will craft the terms of the conservation easements with the towns of Denmark and Sebago, with a goal of transferring the property to the municipalities in the summertime, she said. Denmark will ask its voters in June to accept both the Denmark and Bridgton properties, which make up over 90 percent of the project, allowing for a comprehensive approach to the natural resource and trail system management, she said.

The conservation easements with the municipalities will allow Perley Mills to be managed for sustainable forestry while conserving the wildlife habitat and water quality of Pickerel Pond, Sucker Brook, Willett Brook, Willett Pond, and the high quality wetlands, Walia said. The purpose of a community forest is to ensure the woodland remains intact and undeveloped, while offering beneficial income from sustainable timber management to local and municipal needs, she said.

The traditional recreational uses will also be guaranteed in the easements, retaining three miles along the Narrow Gauge Trail, a major snowmobile, ATV and pedestrian trail network connecting Hiram to Bridgton. Hunting, trapping and fishing will also continue, Walia said.

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