NEW GLOUCESTER — Maine Woodland Owners is now the biggest landowner in town.

The nonprofit organization that oversees and conserves Maine woodlands has officially received the Chandler family donation of 2,000 forested acres, marking the organization’s largest land donation in its 45-year history and moving it to the top of the list of New Gloucester property owners.

Natalie and Steve Chandler, on the Chandler family’s land in New Gloucester.

The Chandler family – husband and wife Steve and Natalie, and Steve’s cousins, Charlie and Bertha – decided in 2018 that the best way to continue to conserve and manage their 22 parcels of land would be to donate them to the organization, according to Executive Director Tom Doak. The transfer of ownership is now final.

“They have managed it with great care and they wanted that management to continue. (The Chandler family) saw us as the organization that could continue their exemplary management of their land,” said Doak.

Maine Woodland Owners has had land trust and donation programs in place since 1990. It conserves more than 10,000 acres around the state, in addition to its work to advance stewardship and advocate for its 2,500 small woodlot owner members.

“It’s big news for our organization because it’s basically setting the stage for growth in our organization that we didn’t anticipate maybe 10 years ago,” Hicks said. “Now we are in a position where we have people who trust us enough… (donations are) usually 10 to 1,000 acres. Here’s someone … who saw us as capable of protecting the legacy (of) the family.”


In an interview after the donation announcement, Steve Chandler told the Lakes Region Weekly that the family’s “primary objective has always been to keep the land undeveloped, and secondly to keep it as a working forest.” Maine Woodlands Owners was the best organization “to meet those needs” going forward, he said.

He said the land will continue to be open to public recreation, such as hiking, walking, fishing, hunting and snowmobiling.

Doak said the Chandlers prefer not to speak to the media now about the donation and asked him to handle any inquiries.

New Gloucester interim Town Manager Paul First could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The New Gloucester land has been owned by the Chandler family since the 1800s, said Jen Hicks, director of communications and outreach. Steve Chandler, a retired forester with the U.S. Forest Service, has taken great care of the land and will likely remain involved with its management going forward, Doak said.

As the new owners, Maine Woodland Owners will take over the conservation and management. This includes periodic timber harvesting, which helps fund the organization and pay local property taxes, which Doak said is an important way for them to give back to local communities. All management is in accordance to international standards of sustainability, he added.


Doak also said that since the organization’s announcement a few years ago that the Chandler land would be donated, there has been an uptick in the number of land donations they’ve received.

“We’re not a land trust organization. We’re a nonprofit that works with private, small landowners… But we’ve never been busier,” he said. “One thing this gift did was certainly (it) triggered a lot of other landowners to think about doing similar-type donations.”

One of Maine Woodland Owners’ primary goals is to protect forested land from development.

“Because of (the Chandler land’s) location in Cumberland County, which is the fastest growing county in the state for development, pressures are pretty high. This is a good example of preserving land to protect it from development,” added Hicks.

Maine Woodland Owners plans to host a public tour of the land this summer.

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