Hikers ascend Bald Mountain, a scenic section of the Appalachian Trail in Somerset County. Photo courtesy of The Trust for Public Land/Chris Bennett Photography

More than 2,600 acres of land around Bald Mountain Pond in Somerset County – a popular destination along the Appalachian Trail known for its stunning views – has been protected for future generations, The Trust for Public Land announced Wednesday.

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail bisects the property near West Forks that will now remain open to the public to enjoy paddling, fishing, hiking and camping. The newly acquired land will expand the protection zone around the Appalachian Trail to include another 1,500 acres of old growth forest – and it will protect from development nine miles of shoreline along Bald Mountain Pond. That area has been identified by the state as of “statewide ecological significance” because of the presence of Canada lynx, old-growth forest and the wild brook trout and rare Arctic char in the pond.

The land was purchased from the timber company Weyerhaeuser for $4,026,000 and will be managed by the National Park Service, the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at the boat launch on the pond.

Paddlers enjoy Bald Mountain Pond. Photo courtesy of The Trust for Public Land/Chris Bennett Photography

Weyerhaeuser allowed public access for recreation for years – but the land acquisition by the trust protects it long term.

“This project is a win-win-win for the region, by preserving an ecological jewel and a backcountry recreation destination, we can protect the biodiversity of Maine’s North Woods and also fuel Maine’s outdoor recreation economy,” said Betsy Cook, the Maine state director for The Trust for Public Land.

Funding for the project came from several government funds, including the Land and Water Conservation Fund, North American Wetlands Conservation Act, and the State of Maine Water Access Program. Private donations also were made by the Elliotsville Foundation, the National Park Foundation and other sources.

“Helping protect Bald Mountain Pond and the amazing scenery that this area offers hikers along the Appalachian Trail has been a thrilling opportunity for our family’s foundation,” said Lucas St. Clair, Elliotsville Foundation president, in the news release from The Trust for Public Land, of which St. Clair is a board member.

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