Conservation groups have purchased a roughly 4,300-acre tract in the Katahdin region that includes 8.6 miles of frontage along the East Branch of the Penobscot River.

The groups said the land just north of Medway and Millinocket will remain open for outdoor recreation activities such as paddling, fishing, camping and hunting but stay on the tax rolls. New trails, campsites, a welcome center and other facilities will be constructed on the property to improve access.

The project is a collaboration of Butler Conservation Fund and its subsidiary, Maine River Trails, as well as the Open Space Institute and The Nature Conservancy. The previous landowner, a New Hampshire-based investment firm called Conservation Forestry, will continue to own and manage more than 32,000 acres of commercial timberland surrounding the land.

“The addition of the East Branch lands builds on OSI’s efforts to help conserve Maine’s recreational lands, pristine rivers and working forests,” Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute, said in a statement. “We are grateful to our project partners and are particularly excited that through these new recreational opportunities and programs for families and students, we are laying the groundwork to support the next generation of land stewards and outdoor enthusiasts.”

The Butler Conservation Fund plans to use the property as part of its Maine Outdoor Education Program, which works with local school systems to expose children to the outdoors and nature-based activities.

“I am very encouraged to see the Maine Outdoor Education Program expanding to have land and facilities for its own base of operations – the land and water trails available on the property and proximity to a good road will allow for school kids to spend even more time outdoors learning,” said Paul Sannicandro, a local guide and Millinocket town councilor who has worked with the Maine Outdoor Education Program.

In addition to the 8.6 miles of frontage along the East Branch of the Penobscot – a destination for paddlers and anglers – the property also includes 1.2 miles along Mud Brook.

The property is close to but does not directly abut land that the family of Roxanne Quimby hopes to donate to the federal government for the creation of a North Woods national monument. Quimby’s proposal, which is being seriously considered by the Obama administration, has deeply divided the local community.

The parties involved in the 4,342-acre East Branch and Mud Brook acquisition stressed that their project has no connection to Quimby’s proposal.

“This property is outside of the proposed National Monument designation area and would not be part of the proposed national monument designation,” the organizations said in a press release. “The Nature Conservancy, Butler Conservation Fund and Open Space Institute do not take a position for or against a proposed national park or national monument in the Katahdin region and consider this project as completely independent.”

 


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