More than 290,000 acres of northern Maine forestlands in Aroostook, Penobscot and Piscataquis counties have been sold to Tall Timber Trust, according to forestry consultant Gary Bahlkow.
In the private transaction, the price of which has not been disclosed, Canopy Timberlands, LLC, sold two major blocks of forestland to Tall Timber Trust, said Bahlkow, who is overseeing the transition of lands and the forestry and contracting teams for Tall Timber. The deal closed Sept. 30, he said.
“They both have been working forest for a long time and continue to be,” Bahlkow said of the two blocks of the land, both comprised of mixed hardwood and softwood forests.
Bahlkow declined to share more information on Tall Timber Trust’s ownership or the extent of its land holdings in Maine, saying the company wants to maintain a “low profile” during a “routine timberland investment transaction.” A quit claim deed filed with the Penobscot County Register of Deeds lists D. Ben Benoit as a trustee of Tall Timber Trust, created in Connecticut in 2007. A message left for a Ben Benoit listed in New London, Connecticut, was not immediately returned Wednesday.
The company that was managing the land for Canopy, Orion Timberlands, was recently harvesting on sections of the lands, and the new management company hired by Tall Timber, LandVest, will be continuing harvests soon, Bahlkow said. He added that many of the forestry employees and logging contractors who were working for Orion will be brought on by LandVest.
The northernmost tract of land is about 105,000 acres, located at the tip of the Crown of Maine, about 20 miles west of Fort Kent and extending to Estcourt Station and the borders with Quebec and New Brunswick.
About 93,000 of those acres were formerly owned by the Pingree family and come with a no-development working forest conservation easement. They’ve been in timber production since the 1860s, Bahlkow said.
The other 190,000 acres are known as the “Baxter unit.” The tract begins less than 10 miles north of the Baxter State Park boundary, starting at Millinocket Lake, and extends 15 miles west of Ashland, with a sub-section northeast of Clayton Lake. According to the property listing by AFM Land Sales, 23,436 of these acres have a 78 percent majority common and undivided ownership interest.
The forestlands north of Baxter State Park were formerly part of the Great Northern Paper holdings and have been in production since the late 1800s, Bahlkow said.
He added that the section of lands north of Baxter are more than 20 miles from the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, and that they are not located in the Penobscot River watershed.
All of the forestland is within the unorganized territories and the North Maine Woods, a system of 3.5 million acres of commercial forestland that is privately-owned and publicly-accessible.
Bahklow said the company intends to continue all leases with current camp owners throughout the lands. He did not know immediately how many there are.
The sale price for the land will not be publicly available until the Registry of Deeds in the three counties list the information with the state and towns, which will probably be effective the second week of November, according to the Aroostook County Register of Deeds.
According to an archive of land sales maintained by the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Tall Timber Trust purchased 240,000 acres in the St. John River and Allagash River watershed in 2008. A 2012 presentation by the Plum Creek land company indicated that Tall Timber paid $79.8 million for 239,000 acres in 2008.
Tall Timber also acquired another 110,000 acres in the St. John headwaters in 2009, according to the Natural Resources Council of Maine archive. Some of that land in the St. John watershed was later acquired by the Nature Conservancy, although Bahlkow did not say how much and the Nature Conservancy has not responded to an inquiry about the purchase.
Bahlkow said that the current transaction was a “routine” sale from one landowner to another and that there will likely be more to come.
“I think there’s a very healthy market in Maine for timberland investors.”