Orbeton Stream area, Op-ed

Lloyd Griscom

Sunday, January 11, 2015
As a local landowner with a camp near the Appalachian Trail in Madrid Township, I became aware of a desire to protect the back country area around the headwaters of the Orbeton Stream.

I knew this was a special place — my uncle once owned forestland here, and despite living all over the country, this area is what we consider our home. I started taking people who had any interest for a hike to the summit of Saddleback Jr., which overlooks the Orbeton.

One such group was the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust.

Late in 2006, I joined the board of directors of the Land Trust and, with many others, started to advocate for the protection of the Orbeton Stream area. The parcel, which consists of roughly 5,800 acres of working forest, features outstanding mountain vistas, pristine mountain streams, an ample road system, and recreational use and opportunities for ATVs, snowmobiles, cross-country skiers, hikers, hunters, birdwatchers and fishermen.

One of the most memorable stretches of Appalachian Trail runs along the northern border of the property and the experience of wildness it provides hikers is protected by the forests of Orbeton.

This beautiful, wild expanse of land was specifically indicated by Peter S. McKinley, conservation biologist at The Wilderness Society, as of critical importance as Maine enters a new era of climate change, forest products industry upheaval, and an aging demographic. McKinley’s ecological study of the High Peaks for the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust led to a growing understanding of the importance of this area and to the creation of the High Peaks Initiative.

At about the same time, a group of local folks (myself included) formed the High Peaks Alliance with a mission to ensure and enhance public recreational access and opportunities in Maine’s high peaks. Their objective was public access and finding a way to coordinate the various interests so that we could all get 80 percent of what we wanted by cooperating together.

Early innovative and collaborative work by Chris Beach and others produced a compromise 100-foot corridor that was transferred from the National Park Service to Maine’s Bureau of Public Lands, permitting a legal, multi-use route over the Appalachian Trail at Eddy Pond known as the Saddleback Connector.

That crossing permitted the creation of the Moose Loop ATV System and settled some difficult issues.

Sen. Susan Collins had language in a bill on the Appalachian Trail Corridor that was helpful in bringing resolution to that issue and her support for this project was essential to its success and funding.

An earlier 2010 Forest Legacy Project in the high peaks failed to get funding. The Trust for Public Land was brought in because of its larger capacity to see conservation projects to completion, like the one we are celebrating.

The key factor in conserving Orbeton Stream is the collaboration among the various groups, all of whom seemed to have divergent interests: forest products versus ecology, motorized trail use versus. non-motorized, private ownership versus state ownership. In the end, what we realized by coming to the table and working together was that conservation doesn’t have to be about “getting what you want” – it can and indeed is about “getting what’s best for everybody.”

Would some environmentalists have been happier with an ecological reserve without ATVs and loggers? Maybe. Would some ATV and snowmobile riders have been happier with continued private ownership of the land? Maybe. But every single outdoor club, group or organization in the area supported the project and is excited to get out on the land with the rest of us.

The ITS 84/89 snowmobile trails, the Moose Loop ATV system, the Fly Rod Crosby Trail and the new Appalachian Trail Berry Pickers side trail all benefit from the guarantee of public access, not to mention Linkletter Brothers Timberlands getting support for its working forest operations.

In a celebration of the Saddleback Connector, Collins said, “in Maine, the environment is the economy.”

Conservation is a form of economic development that protects our brand. Conservation benefits all of us, and the Orbeton Stream project is an excellent model for the future of Maine.

Lloyd Griscom serves on the board of directors of the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust. He owns and operates Peace and Plenty Organic Blueberry Farm in Phillips with his wife. He is also vice president of High Peaks Alliance and a trustee of the Sandy River Land Trust.

Madrid timber land protected under easement

MADRID – Nearly 5,800 acres of timber land around Orbeton Stream has been permanently protected for logging, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling and other recreational activity, following the purchase of an easement by the state of Maine.

The Trust for Public Land, a land conservation group based regionally in Portland, announced that an easement had been purchased by the state from landowner Linkletter Timberlands for $1.6 million. That easement covers 5,774 acres of forested land in northern Madrid, clustered around the Obeton Stream, and encompasses 6.4 miles of popular snowmobile routes 84 and 89, both portions of the state’s Interconnected Trail System. It is the largest working forest parcel in the township.

This map, created by The Trust for Public Land to describe land conservation projects in the region, shows the Oberton Stream area in pink.
This map, created by The Trust for Public Land to describe land conservation projects in the region, shows the Orbeton Stream area in pink.
The easement allows Linkletter Timberlands to continue to own and manage the woodland, using it to supply its pellet mill in Athens. The easement requires that Linkletter never subdivide or develop the acreage.

The 5,800 acres of protected land will tie into preexisting easements to create a 77,000-acre block of conserved land in the High Peaks region. Hunting, fishing, hiking, snowmobiling and riding ATVs are all popular recreational activities in that region.

“Keeping forests as forests benefits all of us by safeguarding recreation and access important to Mainers, and as a source of timber to fuel the state’s economy,” said Wolfe Tone, Maine State Director for The Trust for Public Land, in a statement released today.

“Protection of Orbeton Stream will ensure that a vital snowmobile and ATV corridor that connects the regions communities and businesses will continue to be open to the public forever. These trails are critical to the economic development of these towns,” said Don Whittemore, member of the North Franklin Snowmobile Club and Narrow Gauge Riders ATV Club.

The $1.6 million cost of the easement was paid for through a $1.28 million grant out of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Legacy Program which is administered in this state by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. The Forest legacy Program is funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund and gets its money from offshore oil and gas revenue. According to Tone, another $150,000 was from the Land for Maine’s Future Program and additional money was provided by the Open Space Institute, Wildlife Conservation Society, Fields Pond Foundation, Hopwood Charitable Trust, John Sage Foundation, and many generous private donors.

Orbeton Stream is home to Atlantic salmon. Seven years ago, because of restoration work by the Maine Department of Marine Resources, salmon reared in the Orbeton watershed returned from the North Atlantic Ocean for the first time in more than 150 years.

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land, with the stated goal of ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Nearly 10 million people live within a ten-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. For more information about The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit http://www.tpl.org.

Fly Rod Crosby

Over the winter months we will be working on two projects for the Fly Rod Crosby trail.  One of these will be working to complete the final section of trail from Saddleback Mountain to the Rangeley Logging museum on RT 16 where it will join up with the Northern Forest Canoe trail and cross Rangeley Lake via boat, which completes the trail to Oquassic.

Lower down on the Fly Rod Crosby trail in Madrid,  we are working to create a loop trail that would offer two scenic routes along the Orbeton Stream from the Reeds Mill Rd trailhead.

Crossing the Orbeton Stream would be required.  We are considering different ways to accomplish this.  Fording the stream on foot or possibly installing a cable car that would transport people across.

Please feel free to participate in the High Peaks meetings that are held on the second Wednesday of every month alternating between Phillips Library and the Strong Town Office.

News from 2014

The High Peaks Alliance has some exciting things going on.

We have been busy with many local conservation and recreational projects this year.

Our “All Trails” project has worked well with connecting the local recreational trails community.

In 2014 we partnered with local clubs to find trail projects located in the unorganized territories of Franklin County and applied for a TIF grant titled: “Working together to stay connected”. We were awarded a Franklin County TIF grant in the amount of $39,500 for multiple trail projects in the unorganized territories.
The following clubs partnered with HPA to make this possible. Here is a listing of projects by club.

Kingfield Snowanderers, snowmobile club – Freeman, replacement of 2 bridges and 3 culverts on ITS 115.

Mt Abram trail riders, atv club (MTAR), Salem – Re -route a new access trail from the west to the Salem General Store.

Narrow Gauge Snowmobile club partnering with the Sandy River Riders atv club, Freeman- Moose Loop, re-locate a section of the trail off a steep hill, install erosion control.

Narrow Gauge Riders atv club, Madrid – Rehabilitation of the Noon Mountain trail.

North Franklin Snowmobile Club, Madrid – Replacement bridge over Perham Stream on ITS 89. This grant will pay for the design and engineering to apply for a Maine Recreational Trail Grant for $100,000 to replace the existing bridge.

Survey finds sportsmen same the same concerns as landowners – and Maine desperately needs a strong landowner relations program.

Survey finds sportsmen have the same concerns as landowners – and Maine desperately needs a strong landowner relations program.

 

Photo Courtesy of Devin Littlefield

Photo Courtesy of Devin Littlefield

Great article by George Smith about public access!

Posting is increasing. We’re losing lots of land that was traditionally open to public recreation. This is what sportsmen told Jessica Leahy in her most recent survey.

Jessica is a University of Maine Forestry School professor and member of the Board of the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine. “After seven years and three landowner-focused surveys,” Jessica told me, “we felt it was time to do a land user survey and compare them to the past landowner results.”

It did not surprise me when she found that “most of the land users in our sample shared the same exact concerns and issues as landowners.” That’s really good news, I think. At least we all recognize the problems and concerns and issues.

But Jessica’s conclusion is sobering – and something I’ve been advocating for and writing about for a long time. “There remains a need for a strong landowner relations program in the state!”

The landowner relations position at Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has been vacant for nearly a year – not a good indication that the department considers this important. And even worse, after the legislature placed the position in the Commissioner’s office to emphasize its importance, it’s going to be moved downstairs to the Maine Warden Service. Most assuredly, the program is not all about enforcement.

Top Problems

Here are some of Jessica’s findings.

58% or recreation users felt that posting is increasing.

58% felt that there is not enough open land.

63% have directly experienced posting on land they once used.

53% are either extremely concerned or very concerned about this issue.

Litter, property damage, and erosion were the top three problems identified by recreation users.

ATV riders, local people (non-recreation users) illegally dumping, and teenagers were identified as sources of problems.

“The recreationists have strong policy preferences including a tax deduction for landowners, a youth outdoor education program, and increased law enforcement,” said Jessica.

“We know from our landowner research that a tax deduction was most favored by those landowners who currently allow access and have no plans to post. They would like to have less taxes to do what they were already going to do – which is a bad policy decision,” Jessica concluded. “The average payment needed to get to 50% of landowners participating in a hypothetical walk-in hunter access program was around $25/acre/year. This is not affordable for sportsmen or the State,” she noted.

“When we looked at those landowners who said they were currently providing open access but thinking of posting, or those who might post, they were much more supportive of the youth education and increased law enforcement policy solutions,” she said. “For the landowners, it’s not about the money but rather much more intangible things like a loss of privacy, and frustration at dumping, litter, and bad behavior.”

And here’s a message from Jessica that demands our attention: “If landowners alone were not enough to get the attention of anyone, then perhaps hearing from the land users that they are equally concerned and equally seeing the same problems will help. It’s not an issue of landowners vs. land users here. The results from this new study suggest to me that they are on the same side here. It is really time to step up the efforts with regards to landowner relations in the state.”

Given that Jessica’s survey results, past and present, have been provided to Commissioner Chandler Woodcock and other state leaders, we can only hope that her message has been heard and will soon be acted upon.

USFWS Announces 2014 Expansion of Hunting, Fishing Opportunities in National Wildlife Refuge System

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe today announced the agency will expand hunting and fishing opportunities throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System, opening up new hunting programs on six refuges and expanding existing hunting and fishing programs on another 20 refuges. The rule also modifies existing refuge-specific regulations for more than 75 additional refuges and wetland management districts.

The Service manages its hunting and fishing programs on refuges to ensure sustainable wildlife populations, while offering traditional wildlife-dependent recreation on public lands.

“For more than a century, hunters and anglers have been the backbone of conservation in this country and a driving force behind the expansion of the National Wildlife Refuge System,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “By providing more hunting and fishing opportunities on refuges, we are supporting a great recreational heritage passed down from generation to generation, creating economic growth in local communities and helping to ensure that conservation stays strong in America.”

Under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, the Service can permit hunting and fishing where they are compatible with the refuge’s purpose and mission. Hunting, within specified limits, is permitted on more than 335 wildlife refuges. Fishing is permitted on more than 271 wildlife refuges.

“Hunting and fishing are time-honored ways to enjoy the outdoors and teach people to value nature,” said Director Ashe. “Our National Wildlife Refuge System has millions of acres of public land and water to provide quality hunting and fishing experiences. We hope these expanded hunting and fishing programs will allow more Americans to experience this connection with nature.”

Hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities on national wildlife refuges help stimulate the economy and generate funding for wildlife conservation. Banking on Nature, a Service report released in November, showed refuges pumped $2.4 billion into the economy. Across the country, refuges returned an average $4.87 in total economic output for every $1 appropriated in Fiscal Year 2011.

Other wildlife-dependent recreation on national wildlife refuges includes wildlife photography, environmental education, wildlife observation and interpretation.

To read more: http://www.fws.gov/news/ShowNews.cfm?ID=93DA888D-FF13-4470-29232A2C80EF74E8