GRAND LAKE STREAM,Maine — Walter Whitcomb, Maine’s commissioner of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry, joined Downeast Lakes Land Trust in thanking supporters of the trust at their annual picnic on Sunday, July 28, to celebrate a conservation easement on approximately 22,000 acres near West Grand Lake.
The easement acquisition by the state in December 2012 was a major milestone in the West Grand Lake Community Forest Project of DLLT and an important conservation accomplishment in its own right.
“Thanks to our partnership with the state of Maine, and the hard-working staff at the Bureau of Parks and Lands, the 22,000-acre West Grand Lake Forest will never be developed and will always be open to public recreation,” said Mark Berry, executive director of Downeast Lakes Land Trust, in a press release. “We also owe a debt of gratitude to the Forest Legacy Program of the U.S. Forest Service, the Land for Maine’s Future Program, and our many supporters.”
“It’s a great pleasure to visit Grand Lake Stream, and on behalf of the LePage administration, congratulate Downeast Lakes Land Trust on this success,” said Commissioner Whitcomb. “Your work is a model for conservation and sustainable use of Maine’s natural resources.”
Downeast Lakes Land Trust partnered with Maine to propose the project to the U.S. Forest Service, Forest Legacy Program. The Forest Service selected this locally led project as the No. 1 national forest conservation priority in 2011, awarding more than $5.5 million. The Land for Maine’s Future Board awarded $1,250,000 to the project, which was the top-scoring conservation project in the most-recent round of grant proposals. Additional funding has been provided by the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, the Open Space Institute, the Pew Charitable Trusts Northeast Land Trust Consortium, and many other foundations, businesses, and individuals.
DLLT has a goal to purchase the West Grand property for management as a Community Forest. The trust manages the adjacent Farm Cove Community Forest for wildlife habitat, sustainable forestry, and public recreation. “We have an opportunity to bring the same careful stewardship by local people to the West Grand property,” Berry said in the release, “We seek to provide further protection to the property’s exceptional areas, provide recreation opportunities including hiking trails and water access campsites, and ensure the property will help sustain the Down East economy.”
While there is much to celebrate, DLLT and its supporters have hard work ahead. “We have through the end of 2015 – two and a half years – to raise the funds necessary to purchase the property outright,” said Berry. “As of today we have $6 million to go. We’re determined and optimistic about the opportunity to do more for our communities and the Down East region.”
DLLT President and Vermont Poet Laureate Sydney Lea thanked members of the Grand Lake Stream community for their unwavering support of the project, and bestowed the annual Downeast Lakes Conservation Award on “The People of Grand Lake Stream” in acknowledgment of their support and their long heritage of natural resource stewardship. In a unanimous vote at a November, 2008 town meeting, the citizens of Grand Lake Stream – population of 109 – appropriated $40,000 as a contribution to permanent conservation of the West Grand Lake Community Forest.
In a letter presented to the trust at the picnic, Senator Susan Collins said, “Your efforts to protect our resources and our way of life while seeking to strike a balance between ecological conservation and a strong economy.”