141 acres protected on Merrymeeting Bay in North Bath after survey completed and conservation easement signed
Butler Head Preserve, a 141-acre woodland site owned by the City of Bath, is now in a conservation easement held by the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust (KELT). The property off Varney Mill Road in North Bath protects 4,285 feet of shoreline on Merrymeeting Bay, Butler Cove and West Chops Point.
Bath City Manager William Giroux and Jack Witham, president of the KELT Board of Directors, signed the legal agreement in early March, just over a year after the Bath City Council approved the easement. A survey establishing the legal acreage to be protected was completed in late February, the last step before finalizing the easement.
The Butler Head project, a collaborative effort of the City of Bath, the Bath Community Forestry Committee (BCFC) and KELT, protects and preserves in perpetuity the land’s wildlife habitat and natural features, and provides for public enjoyment of low-impact outdoor recreational opportunities and the scenic views of the land and the adjacent waters.
“This is a major accomplishment for the City of Bath and the conservation effort of the BCFC to preserve and protect our forested lands,” said Elizabeth Haskell, chair of the BCFC.
Six years ago a “Forest Ecosystem Management Plan for Butler Head and Whiskeag Woods” was developed, cataloguing the known flora and fauna, geological features and other special characteristics of the Butler Head parcel. “With the property protection of the conservation easement we can now be sure that the objectives of the management plan can be met,” said Haskell.
The primary management goal at Butler Head is to restore the natural species and habitat diversity of the forested areas and conserve the shoreland and watershed protection values. The plan’s vision looks 50 years into the future to a Butler Head Preserve that is “a protected wetland ecosystem and well-managed, ecologically mature and developing intermediate upland forest that comprises mainly long-lived and late-successional species interspersed with young-forest patches to provide a diversity of plant and wildlife habitat.”
Butler Head is a work in progress, noted Bath City Arborist Tom Hoerth. “It’ll be years before we reach our goals, but it’s a great situation for forestry education programs,” like the maple sugaring project Hoerth has been working on with Morse High School students over the last three years.
“BCFC is the steward of Butler Head Preserve and it is our responsibility to plan now for the future,” said Tom Barrington, longtime committee member. “It’s critical that we work to protect the watershed and that’s why we sought a conservation easement with KELT.”
Managing a forest means considering timber management, wildlife habitat, soil erosion, global warming, invasive species, recreational use, vernal pools, and wetlands. “We want Butler Head to be not just a hiking spot, but also an ongoing educational resource if we’re going to save the forests for generations to come,” said Haskell.
The Kennebec Estuary Land Trust is a membership supported organization dedicated to protecting the land, water and wildlife of the Kennebec Estuary. It maintains nine preserves for public enjoyment and has protected over 2500 acres of land since founding in 1989. FMI contact www.kennebecestuary.org or call (207) 442-8400.