The town of Falmouth has been awarded a $231,800 federal grant to help it preserve 96 acres of land contiguous to the North Falmouth Community Forest, U.S. Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins announced.

The grant from the U.S. Forest Service brings the town closer to raising the approximately $460,000 needed to add the acreage to its already sizable portfolio of untouched preservation land, said Bob Shafto, Falmouth’s open space ombudsman.

If successful, the acquisition would add another 35 percent to the 274 acres already preserved at the community forest, located at the northwest corner of Falmouth on the town line with Westbrook and Cumberland.

The community forest provides recreation for the public, as well as fuel to produce wood pellets for wood-fired boilers in Falmouth schools.

“It’s the most remote part of town, and one of the few places where you can’t hear car traffic,” Shafto said. “One hundred years from now – which is really what our vision is all about – we want to be a town where you still know you live in Maine.”

Falmouth, which has made preservation a priority, counts roughly 3,000 acres of land preserved either by the municipality or the Falmouth Land Trust, representing about 15 percent of the town overall.

Shafto said the remaining half of the money to complete the acquisition could be funded by Land for Maine’s Future, the state agency that distributes millions of dollars to localities around the state for preservation projects. An announcement of the state money awards is expected in July, Shafto said.

Once the acquisition is fully funded, the public will have to wait between six months and a year for the purchase to be completed before the land may be accessed, Shafto said.

While the land would serve as a wooded escape for hunters, cross-country skiers, birders, hikers, runners and horseback riders, Shafto said, a more important aspect of the acquisition is that it would be a small but important bulwark against the continued encroachment of development on the Presumpscot River watershed.

About 7 percent of the 205-square-mile watershed is paved or developed, nearing the point when development will begin to significantly affect water quality and habitat.

“This area was identified as a place that we can really protect some forestland,” Shafto said. “It’s a terrific, unfragmented block. For Greater Portland, it’s a tremendous resource, and will be increasingly important as development pressure increases.”