In an effort to preserve wildlife habitat in eastern Hancock County, The Nature Conservancy has acquired approximately 13,500 acres of woodland north of Tunk Mountain and Highway 182.
The land, which abuts an existing conservation reserve immediately north of Tunk Mountain and at the northwest corner of the Donnell Pond Public Land, will continue to be open to the public for bird watching, hunting and fishing.
The main purpose of the acquisition is to preserve the land for wildlife habitat, the organization said Thursday. The purchase price for the land, which conservation officials said was “substantially” less than its appraised value, was $ 5.2 million. In total, the land acquisition project cost $ 6.5 million.
“Conserving this property will help maintain a forest connection between the lower east coast and the woods of northern Maine, protecting the habitat for large-scale wildlife and allowing species to move in response to climate change.” , officials from The Nature Conservancy said in a statement. . âThis land is important as a buffer zone for valuable aquatic habitat that supports the native brook trout fishery and contributes to important Atlantic salmon habitat.â
Most of the land is in Township 16 in the Unorganized Territory of Maine, where 23 commercial scale wind turbines have been erected as part of the Bull Hill Wind and Hancock Wind projects, and where the Three Rivers Solar project of 100 megawatts is under development. . The Nature Conservancy’s land will abut three sides each of both the existing wind farm and the planned solar farm.
William Clark, chairman of the county commission, said county officials have never sought to encourage renewable energy development in this part of the county, although the county does derive some financial benefits from the deals it has with the wind power developers who erected turbines in Townships 16 and 22. There has been no interest from developers in other parts of Township 16 that TNC now owns, but others Wind power developers are pursuing projects in the nearby towns of Eastbrook and Osborn, and in a few towns in western Washington County.
Clark said the county had recently unsuccessfully attempted to have an ATV trail built through land acquired by conservation, but he was not concerned the purchase would have other impacts on the surrounding area.
“We are aware of this [pending acquisition] for a while, âhe said.
The acquisition also includes the vast majority of the portion of Township 9 which lies north of Highway 182 and will expand The Nature Conservancy’s 9,700 acre Spring River reserve, increasing the size of the reserve to approximately 23,500 acres. . The state’s Donnell Pond consists of over 14,000 acres that abut Donnell Pond, Spring River Lake, and Tunk Lake.
The conserved lands should help provide refuge for species whose ranges are shifting north due to global warming.
“TNC has mapped the connected ecosystems that are expected to be important for the movement of plants and animals as climate change alters the landscape,” organization officials said. âThis analysis is a major driver of TNC’s strategic land conservation efforts.
The group said recreational infrastructure on the land being acquired is limited, its roads are seasonal, and overnight camping and pets are not permitted in order to limit the impact of recreational use. .
The acquisition is believed to be part of the Maine Coastal Forest Partnership, in which several conservation groups worked with the Conservation Fund to acquire and conserve nearly 18,000 acres of forest in Hancock and Washington counties.