The Nature Conservancy, the Forest Society of Maine and Plum Creek today announced an historic conservation easement on 363,000 acres near Greenville, ME. The easement is one of the largest in the history of conservation in the United States, and it serves as the missing piece that connects existing protected lands to create a two million-acre stretch of conserved forestland.

But perhaps as important as its scale, is a commitment that this property will remain accessible, ensuring a future for the long tradition of recreation and sustainable forestry in the Maine woods.

“For more than a century, local foresters and hunting and fishing guides have built a livelihood from this forest, and the plan for balancing community goals with the needs of nature will allow that long tradition of multiple-use forests to continue,” said Mike Tetreault, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Maine, who led a celebration at the Maine Historical Society today.

The 363,000-acre easement, which will be held by the Forest Society of Maine, will permit recreation, including hunting, fishing, hiking and snowmobiling on set trails; as well as forestry that meets the standards of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI®) and other conservation guidelines while allowing forest products to continue to benefit the local economy.

“Plum Creek is pleased to have worked through the regulatory process and partnered with The Nature Conservancy to conserve these important lands and help provide a predictable future for the Moosehead region,” said Rick Holley, president and chief executive officer for Plum Creek.

The 363,000-acre easement announced today includes some lands for which the easement was donated by Plum Creek, and additional acres where the conservation easement was purchased by The Nature Conservancy, using funds being raised as part of its ongoing $100 million Sustainable Maine, Sustainable Planet campaign, as well as some funds raised by the Forest Society of Maine.

The Moosehead easement conserves habitat for dozens of protected fish and wildlife species, as well as more than 200 miles of lakeshore along 69 lakes and ponds.

“Today’s celebration is truly about how conservation, business, government and community interests can work together to achieve remarkable things,” said Alan Hutchinson, executive director of the Forest Society of Maine.

“As the result of the commitment and hard work of many, hundreds of thousands of acres of woods and waters in the Moosehead region will be growing and sustaining trees and forests, Canada lynx and brook trout, and generations of healthy outdoor enthusiasts,” Hutchinson said. “The Forest Society of Maine is honored and ready to be a part of that future, as the overseer of this conservation easement.”

The new easement provides a bridge between existing conservation lands, including 44,000 acres that have recently been protected in the region as a result of this partnership. The Nature Conservancy and the State of Maine have purchased lands that are now known as the Moose River Reserve, including portions of Number 5 Bog and lands that provide access to the famous Moose River Bow Trip paddling route. And a nearby parcel that includes more than 10 remote ponds near the Appalachian Trail’s 100-Mile Wilderness has been conserved by the Appalachian Mountain Club.

This easement represents the conservation portion of a framework developed by Plum Creek for a large portion of its lands in Maine and approved by the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission. Through a multi-year process, a concept plan was developed that balances development and conservation in the Moosehead region. The outcome: 96 percent of the land was conserved and just four percent zoned for development. Earlier this spring, a legal challenge to the plan was dismissed, clearing the way for completion of the full conservation vision.