A view of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range in the White Mountain National Forest, as seen from the northwest side of Mahoosuc Arm in Grafton Township in western Maine. Jerry Monkman / EcoPhotography

Two conservation groups have completed a project that protects more than 20,000 acres connecting conservation lands in Maine and New Hampshire, including part of the Appalachian Trail, according to a release Thursday by the Forest Society of Maine.

The 21,265-acre Grafton Forest Project in western Maine culminates several years of work by the forest society and the Northeast Wilderness Trust in collaboration with Wagner Forest Management, a timberland owner, the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands and other groups in the Bethel region, the forest society said in the release.

The forest society holds a conservation easement on 15,220 acres of sustainably managed forests and the Northeast Wilderness Trust owns 6,045 acres of watershed and high elevation habitat that will be managed as wilderness. The parcel “encompasses some of the most spectacular scenery and finest remote hiking in Maine,” the forest society said.

The forest society and wilderness trust jointly raised $10.7 million in private funds to complete the project.

“The Grafton Forest easement brings permanent conservation to a working forest that supports local economies, provides important fish and wildlife habitat, and hosts well-known recreation destinations,” said Karin Tilberg, the forest society’s president and CEO. “The area is known as the ‘people’s backyard’ and it will now remain a forever forest.”

Grafton Forest is next to the state-owned Mahoosuc Public Reserved Lands Unit and Grafton Notch State Park. Along with existing Grafton-Stowe and Robinson Peak conservation easements, they encompass just over 45,000 acres of land in the Mahoosuc Range in western Maine. These lands include more than 18 miles of the Appalachian Trail, according to the Bureau of Parks and Lands.

The newly protected Grafton Forest protects access to two Appalachian Trail side trails, known as the Notch Trail and the Speck Pond Trail, and the main woods roads that lead to them.

It also protects lowland forest that contains the headwaters of the Swift Cambridge River, which flows into the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge.

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