Land Trust Receives Funding to Conserve 84 Acres
The Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance (SWLA) received a $15,000 grant this fall from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund to conserve two properties totaling 84 acres in Liberty on the Sheepscot River. The properties have more than one mile of river frontage, border already conserved lands, and will be open to the public for non-motorized recreation, fishing, and hunting with permission.
In the past two years SWLA has conserved six properties in this area that has created an opportunity to establish a conserved area of over 700 acres bordering Lake St. George State Park. Currently SWLA holds an option to buy on a large property that would tie all of these lands together. Conserving large areas of land supports the many benefits that healthy ecosystems provide such as clean water and air and provides long-term stability for landscape health.
Another recently acquired grant from the Maine Community Foundation is supporting trail development in this area in collaboration with Lake St. George State Park and the town of Liberty. A one-mile loop near the river will open in spring 2016 and development of several more miles of trails is underway. Ultimately this trail network will connect with the 30-mile network a few miles to the north and with the Hills to Sea Trail between Belfast and Unity that is also under development. “This area offers exceptional opportunities for cross country skiing and hiking,” says SWLA trails project coordinator Tom Boothby. “Some of the forest along the river on the recently acquired Magnani property is stunning.”
The upper Sheepscot watershed in Waldo County is an area with large pieces of forestland, limited development and tremendous conservation opportunity. A 2008 conservation plan for the 228 square mile watershed determined that the upper watershed contained one of the largest undeveloped blocks of land in the midcoast region. All six recently acquired properties are in priority conservation areas for the watershed, and also are in priority areas for the region-wide conservation plan of the 12 Rivers Conservation Initiative, a collaborative effort of ten midcoast land trusts.
The Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund (MOHF) is a state program in which proceeds from the sale of dedicated instant lottery tickets (currently “Moose Moolah”) are used to support outdoor recreation and natural resource conservation. For information about MOHF, go to www.maine.gov/ifw/MOHF.html. Fundraising for these projects is ongoing, and the Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance has also received generous funding from the Morton-Kelly Trust and the Butler Foundation to support conservation of these two properties.
The Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance is one of four organizations merging on January 1, 2016 to become Midcoast Conservancy, whose mission is: to support and promote healthy lands, waters, wildlife, and people in the midcoast through conservation, education, and recreation. The new organization will serve much of Waldo and Lincoln County, Maine, providing over 60 miles of publicly accessible trails, fields trips and programs designed to help people of all ages deepen their curiosity of the natural world, and 6300 acres of conserved land that are open to the public for non-motorized recreation. For more information or to support these projects go to www.swlamaine.org or call 207-589-3230.
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Photo caption: volunteers scout the recently conserved Magnani property along the Sheepscot River for trails to connect to Lake St. George State Park.