AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. John Baldacci joined Millinocket area representatives and conservation groups on Friday to celebrate the completion of a conservation deal to protect more than 2,400 acres around Seboeis Lake near Millinocket.
Under the deal, the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands will take ownership of the 2,434-acre property, which includes 12 miles of frontage along Seboeis Lake and Northwest Pond and miles of multiuse trails. The acquisition eliminates development rights on 95 percent of Seboeis Lake’s shoreline, while guaranteeing public access and keeping the land open to sustainable forestry.
Sam Hodder with the Trust for Public Land, which helped negotiate the deal, said the Seboeis Lake project also is part of a larger commitment by conservation groups to prioritize local recreational needs in the Millinocket area.
“This is the first real strong step in that new collaboration. There are many more to come,” Hodder said.
Millinocket Town Manager Eugene Conlogue, who has criticized some past conservation deals as being against the interests of sportsmen and the forest products industry, applauded the Seboeis Lake project.
Conlogue said it will protect multiuse recreational trails between Millinocket and the Brownville-Milo area that are important to the local economy, as well as set the stage for future trail development.
One name that came up several times during Friday’s event was Roxanne Quimby. The co-founder of Burt’s Bees, Quimby has angered many in the Millinocket area and elsewhere in rural Maine by purchasing huge swaths of land and prohibiting hunting, mechanized recreation and logging.
But Baldacci and Conlogue both credited Quimby for her role in the larger conservation package. While Quimby did not own the Seboeis Lake parcel, separate agreements she negotiated with the state and Millinocket area representatives were key to the larger conservation and recreation vision for the region that made the Seboeis Lake deal possible.
Baldacci also used Friday’s event to praise the Land for Maine’s Future, the program funded by voter-approved bonds that supplied $897,000 to the project. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Sewall Foundation and the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands covered the rest of the $2.4 million price tag.
Baldacci has proposed $21 million in bonds for land conservation and working waterfront preservation through LMF. Various other LMF bond proposals also are pending with the Legislature.
The governor said he believes the Seboeis Lake project underscores the importance of investing in protection of the state’s “special places,” even during a budget crunch.
“We have to cut [spending], we have to consolidate; the law and constitution require it,” Baldacci said. “But we have to invest.”