NEW GLOUCESTER — A family-owned land management company whose New Gloucester roots date to the mid-1700s has donated 2,500 acres to the Maine Woodland Owners Land Trust.

“We knew we had to do something so the land wouldn’t be developed. That’s why we’re giving it away,” said Chandler Brothers spokesman Steve Chandler, representing himself and the three other family owners: Charles P. Chandler, Bertha Chandler and Natalie Chandler.

“This land gift represents half of the organization’s total land trust acreage,” said Tom Doak, executive director of Maine Woodland Owners. The organization is the steward of 5,000 acres owned outright and 3,000 acres of easements.

“This is one of the largest land holdings all in one town, something that is highly unusual,” Doak said. “We’re really excited.”

The stewardship plan for the land, which was donated in January, will match the goals of the family: land management, including growing trees for forest products; allowing public use for hunting, fishing, trapping and walking; no development; and paying taxes to the town.

The land consists of roughly 45 parcels scattered throughout New Gloucester. Some tracts abut the Shaker land conservation easement. All of the lots are being studied for deed accuracy, which will take a few years. After each lot is cleared, it will be conveyed to Maine Woodland Owners.

Steve Chandler and his wife, Natalie, spoke on behalf of the family.

“Our line has been in New Gloucester since Peleg brought his wife, Sarah, here from North Yarmouth in the first wheeled vehicle, an ox cart in the mid-1700s,” Steve Chandler said.

“The family has been invested in agricultural and forestland since,” he said. “My grandfather and his three brothers acquired Uncle Solomon’s land in the 1890s and ran a successful sawmill and lumber business. An aunt and her son and daughter along with Natalie and I are presently managing some 2,800 acres of land under the traditional name of Chandler Brothers. Some of the land dates back to the mid-1700s.”

The family grappled for a dozen years about the future management of the land, he said.

“We knew we had to do something so the land wouldn’t be developed. That’s why we’re giving it away.”

Steve Chandler retired from the U.S. Forest Service in 1998 and moved back to New Gloucester. He and his cousin, Charlie, managed the land they inherited from their fathers, Charles P. Chandler and Warner Chandler. Bertha and Natalie have been “silent” partners, Steve Chandler said.

As children growing up in Lower Gloucester, first cousins Steve and Charlie got their lessons in land management skills from their fathers, learning boundary lines and surveying.

“The family worked to restore land after hard cutting in the 1930s with the help of forester Cliff Foster of Gray for more than 50 years,” Steve Chandler said.

“These lands lured me into the forestry profession,” he said. “Today, the properties lie between two major metropolitan areas of Maine, Portland and Lewiston-Auburn.

“Sprawl pressures are horrendous and much of my time is spent working on long-range land management issues to try and maintain the character of the town of New Gloucester.”

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