TOWNSHIP 4 RANGE 9, Maine — The Trust for Public Land secured an option to buy for about $2.4 million some 2,256 acres around Seboeis Lake that would help guarantee snowmobile and hunting access to the lake and Katahdin region, officials said Tuesday.
Signed two weeks ago with landowner Bayroot LLC, the option cements several years of work for trust, state and Katahdin officials but leaves them with a daunting deadline. The money must be raised by February, said Sam Hodder, Maine state director of the Trust for Public Land.
“We have a very fast timeline. It’s a significant hurdle, but we have been working with this in partnership with the state for several years. I am confident we can do it,” Hodder said Tuesday.
Located off Route 11 about 11 miles south of Millinocket and 16 miles north of Brownville Junction, the lake is rated as having “statewide significance” by Maine’s Wildlands Lake Assessment because of its undeveloped shores and impressive views of Mount Katahdin and Barren Chairback Range.
The optioned land is popular for backcountry camping and has within it 5 miles of Interconnected Trail System 111. Public ownership of that trail section, Millinocket Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said, will help preserve Katahdin’s nationally renowned snowmobiling and expand its recreational variety.
“We want to expand our snowmobile and ATV offerings. That corridor is a vital link between Millinocket and Brownville,” Conlogue said Tuesday. Conlogue and Town Council Chairman Wallace Paul were among local leaders who helped decide on the land purchase, Hodder said.
Another recreational benefit is that the purchase would secure for public boating and other recreation, plus state-managed forestry, about 17 miles of shoreline and the islands within Northwest Pond, the northern leg of Seboeis Lake, Hodder said.
The optioned land connects to the state-owned Seboeis public lands unit, which includes about 13,372 acres and most of the rest of the frontage on Seboeis Lake, Hodder said. The state already owns about 70 percent of the lake frontage. The additional frontage leaves 2 miles of shoreline privately owned.
“It’s the southernmost and most accessible branch of the conservation matrix that is centered around the conservation land and working forests of the Millinocket region — the AMC project, Katahdin Iron Works areas. … This is all part of that same project and fits into it,” Hodder said.
At a time when shifting landowner priorities and new landowners erode the “traditional rights access” sportsmen enjoyed for decades, public land ownership is essential as the best guarantee of everyone enjoying Maine’s woods, Hodder said.
“Of all the conservation projects in the region, this one is a particular value to the local communities. The campgrounds on the land the state owns are full all summer long with local recreationists,” Hodder said.
He added, “We are trying to find areas of common ground and improve the communication and collaboration with environmentalists and local and state officials as we all go about trying to conserve what’s most important in the landscape — local jobs, snowmobile trails, the remoteness and wild character of the land. That conversation has spurred a collaboration that would have been unthinkable just two years ago.”