A view from the 3,648-foot Caribou Mountain in the Boundary Mountains Preserve in northern Franklin County. Mark Berry/The Nature Conservancy

MERRILL STRIP TOWNSHIP — The Nature Conservancy in Maine has purchased all 9,608 acres of this township in northern Franklin County, naming it the Boundary Mountains Preserve, according to a news release on its website.

The Nature Conservancy in Maine has purchased Merrill Strip Township in northern Franklin County. Dan Coker/The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy “is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends.”

The Maine organization based in Brunswick announced its purchase from Bayroot, LLC on Aug. 13. The property is directly adjacent to over 22,000 acres of public lands in Quebec, and next to a roughly 8,000-acre property where the Forest Society of Maine is working with a private landowner to purchase a conservation easement, according to the release.

The Nature Conservancy is raising private contributions for this project, Jeremy Cluchey, the conservancy’s director of strategic communications, wrote in an email Thursday.

“The total budget for purchase and establishment of the Boundary Mountains Preserve, including an endowment to fund long-term stewardship, payment in lieu of taxes, and other care of the property is approximately $8.4 million,” he wrote.

The conservancy is using revenue from an innovative forest carbon offset project in its Upper St. John River Forest.

The organization intends to manage the forest as an ecological reserve, where the forest is shaped by natural processes such as wind, ice and other weather events, according to Cluchey. Beyond providing valuable wildlife habitat, ecological reserves are important to scientists studying the growth of forests and how they respond, in the absence of timber harvesting, to challenges such as climate change, forest pests, diseases and airborne pollution. Maintaining the carbon stored in this mature forest and providing opportunity for trees to continue pulling carbon from the atmosphere also benefits the climate.

A rainbow forms in the Boundary Mountains Preserve in Franklin County. Mark Berry/The Nature Conservancy

The acquisition extends a corridor of permanently conserved lands northward to a total of over 260,000 acres, representing a key link in a major pathway of ecological connection from the White Mountains in New Hampshire through the western Maine mountains and Quebec borderlands and beyond, the release states.

The organization considers the property a healthy, mature mountain forest that runs along 12 miles of the border with Quebec. It contains “important headwater habitat for the Kennebec River and is adjacent to the watershed of the Chaudière River, which flows north to join the St. Lawrence at Quebec City.

The property includes 3,648-foot Caribou Mountain, 3,333-foot Merrill Mountain, and a dozen other peaks over 2,700 feet in elevation. Its mountains are part of the skyline visible from western Maine mountains, including Bigelow, Sugarloaf, Saddleback, the peaks around Attean and Moosehead Lakes, Tumbledown, and many more, as well as Mont Mégantic and Lac Mégantic in Quebec. Water streams also feed into the nearby Moose River and provide important habitat for wild brook trout.

This acquisition is part of a larger strategy by the organization to address the effects of climate change through conservation.

People are welcome to enjoy recreation at the preserve — including birding, hunting and fishing — in accordance with state law. However, there is no recreational infrastructure, and overnight camping and pets are not permitted in order to protect the natural processes and wildlife.

“We knew how important it was to conserve this forestland for nature and for future generations of Mainers,” Kate Dempsey, the state director of the conservancy, stated in the release. “Now we’re counting on supporters of conservation to join us in this effort, as they have so many times before.”

The conservancy intends to make a payment in lieu of taxes equal to tree growth on this parcel, county Clerk Julie Magoon told county commissioners Tuesday.


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