State officials closed a $2.6 million deal with conservationist Roxanne Quimby on two parcels totaling 7,785 acres outside Millinocket and adjacent to Baxter State Park on Friday that they say will help turn the area into a multiuse recreational playground.
As part of the deal, Quimby sold 5,061 acres north of Millinocket Lake to the state for $2.1 million and the state secured conservation easements on 2,849 acres near Mud Brook and Whetstone Bridge for $500,000.
The 5,000 acres will be working forest. Easements will guarantee access to both plots for hunting, snowmobiling and other mechanized recreation, such as ATV use. They also will help maintain two snowmobile trails, Interconnected Trail Systems 83 and 85, said Wolf Tone, state director for The Trust for Public Land, which helped broker the deal.
“These lands help make trail connections for ATVs and snowmobiles from Millinocket to Mattagamon. These communities are looking to promote motorized and nonmotor opportunities. They want this region to be a recreational destination,” Tone said Friday. “This deal will help do that.”
In development for more than three years, the deal is expected to help cool relations between Quimby and area sportsmen who have said her conservationist tactics were denying them access to lands important to the region’s economy.
The snowmobile trails help connect the Katahdin region to Aroostook County and thus are key components to the statewide snowmobile network.
“The segments of the trails come into the [newly purchased] property right where the trails split, so it’s an important intersection,” Tone said.
The state’s Land for Maine’s Future program is contributing $760,000 to the deal. The remainder of the $2.6 million price tag will be covered by grants from the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, officials have said.
The deal, Tone said, has its roots in Maine’s hard-fought effort to add the Katahdin Lake property to Baxter State Park back in 2006. As part of the Katahdin Lake deal, the state secured an option to purchase more than 8,000 acres of remote timberlands east of the park.
But after further negotiations between Quimby and the nonprofit Trust for Public Land, the state agreed in late 2007 to allow Quimby to purchase the so-called “Wassataquoik Valley Lands.” In return, Quimby offered the state the opportunity to purchase much more accessible land or easements on property closer to Millinocket.
Quimby and Millinocket Town Manager Eugene Conlogue, vice chairman of the Maine Woods Coalition, which has opposed Quimby’s conservation efforts and a drive to turn parts of northern Maine into a national park, are among those who endorse the $2.6 million transaction.
“This transaction points to the common interests we all share in preserving the wilderness resource, in economic development, and encouraging a variety of outdoor uses. I look forward to the next stages of this critically important discussion,” Quimby said in a statement.
“This purchase and easement acquisition expands premier public access for snowmobiling, ATVs and recreation for Maine people, while assuring the long-term commitment to our working forests,” Commissioner Bill Beardsley of the Maine Department of Conservation said Friday. “This is a jobs creator for the forest and recreation industries in the Millinocket region.”
A third parcel of 3,567 acres near or at Lookout Mountain likely will be the next state purchase, Tone said. It is still being appraised.