Open space has long been one of the most important qualities Maine has to offer. However, most of this land is privately owned, and is increasingly being sold and put to other uses. More and more of what remains is being posted against public use. The ability to readily find a place to hunt, hike, access public waters, or otherwise enjoy the outdoors has long been a treasured way of life in Maine, but is rapidly being lost.

However, the Land for Maine’s Future program, state conservation agencies, towns, local land trusts and private interests are joining together to conserve important natural values on lands across the state, as well as to provide places for its residents and visitors to enjoy Maine’s great outdoors. Judy Camuso, commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, is advocating that more opportunities for hunting and outdoor activities be protected near where people live.

The town of Wayne has a unique opportunity to provide for the protection and use of a tract of land that currently contributes significantly to its open space goal, at little cost to the town.

The so-called Wilson Pond Lot was acquired by the town via a tax lien; the town has had a clear title to the land for several years. On May 28, the town will be holding a public meeting regarding the future of this land. A sealed ballot vote will be held at its June 11 election to guide the town in deciding its future use.

A recent Wayne Conservation Commission report strongly supports open space designation and permanent protection of the Wilson Pond Lot.  This detailed report (see waynemaine.org) describes the lot as encompassing “approximately 1,000 ft. of shore frontage on Wilson Pond and extends up slope toward Morrison Heights. Access is primarily gained from the House Road, which intersects Mt. Pisgah Rd. At approximately 118 acres, the Wilson Pond lot is one of the 13 remaining parcels over 100 acres in Wayne. The property does not extend to the top of Morrison Heights ridge line, but does include much of the very steep sloped eastern watershed draining onto Wilson Pond. The combination of water frontage, mixed forest, multiple habitats, and most importantly, steep slopes draining into a fragile pond means that careful consideration should be given to its future.”

The Wilson Pond Lot lies in the middle of a largely unbroken forest that includes properties owned by a family trust, private ownership, and a tree farm. Large unbroken blocks of forest and wetland habitat protect water quality, and are vital, and in many cases, essential to many species of wildlife. They provide both habitat and important travel corridors. Wildlife simply does not do well in isolated blocks of fragmented habitat. At the same time, the lot has many recreational opportunities not currently available in Wayne.  Further, Wayne has less publicly available conservation land than most nearby towns.

This unique tract provides a major contribution to Wayne open spaces. To sell or otherwise fragment this land would jeopardize the linkage it provides to other lands, and degrade its significant natural values, including its diverse wildlife habitats, and recreational potentials.

I urge Wayne voters to vote for long-term conservation on June 11.

 

Fred Hurley is a retired wildlife biologist who worked for the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife. He has lived in Wayne for nearly 50 years.

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