AUGUSTA — Gov. John Baldacci will formally welcome 2,434 acres around Seboeis Lake into the 3.6 million acres preserved statewide for public recreation and forestry during a ceremony at the State House at 10 a.m. today.
It’s a tiny part of a much greater whole, but the $2.4 million Seboeis Lake purchase includes about 16.8 miles of shore and island frontage of the lake and 5 miles of a key snowmobile trail, ITS 11, said Kim Gilman, spokeswoman for the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization working to protect land as parks and open space.
Portions of the land also will be devoted to commercial forestry, Gilman said.
“The Seboeis project will make a real difference in the Katahdin region’s economy,” Gilman said Thursday. “It means that the private sector can make investments in tourism and other industries, including forestry, knowing that these lands will always be open.”
The trust secured an option with landowner Bayroot LLC to buy the land in October. The trust is among several state, nonprofit, private and federal agencies devoted to maintaining public commercial and recreational access to land.
The 2,434 acres are part of a 7,300-acre parcel south of Baxter State Park near Seboeis Lake that the agencies are working to buy and secure for forestry and public recreation, including hunting, fishing, snowmobiling and ATV riding.
Katahdin region officials, including Millinocket Town Manager Eugene Conlogue, will be in Augusta today to approve of the lake purchase and discuss the continuing need for public purchase of land, Gilman said.
“There is no way for the public to control land other than by owning it,” Gilman said, “and when we say public ownership, we mean public access. It isn’t just about the state owning land. It’s about preserving public access to that land, which can’t be guaranteed without public ownership.”
The event also will provide Baldacci and legislators an opportunity to promote their commitment to the Legislature’s Land for Maine’s Future program, which the Legislature created in 1987 to help maintain the state’s traditional access to forests.
Since its inception, LMF has secured almost 500,000 acres for public use through conservation easements and ownership, said Tim Glidden, director of the Maine State Planning Office. LMF supplied about $897,000 to the Seboeis Lake purchase.
The 500,000 acres are within the 3.6 million acres publicly owned or with legally preserved public access, Glidden said.
Of that 3.6 million acres, about 2 million are held by land trusts usually with conservation easements. Another 100,000 are owned by municipalities and 1.3 million are owned by the state government, with 75 percent outright ownership and 25 percent easement ownership.
About 200,000 acres are federally owned in places such as Acadia National Park.
“A lot of this raw acreage is commercial acreage dedicated to forestry,” Glidden said. “In rough terms, at least 1½ [million] to 2 million [acres are] working forest easements under commercial timber management, and that is something that distinguishes Maine from other states’ conservation efforts. We are also protecting the timber basket for the forest products industry.”
State officials are eyeing several projects that, if completed, would resemble the Seboeis Lake purchase for their ability to bolster Maine’s economy, Glidden said.
“What we don’t have the ability to do is take on a new project that might be emerging now,” he said, “so it’s important to note that even as we celebrate this great achievement, we still have more work to do.”