The Kennebago River is known by fishing enthusiasts to contain some of the finest wild brook trout habitat in the United States. Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust

RANGELEY — Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust has purchased 1,731 acres of forest, shorefront and wetlands in the Kennebago watershed to conserve for ecological and recreational purposes.

The land, which includes 2 miles of undeveloped shorefront on Little Kennebago Lake and 9 miles of frontage on the upper Kennebago River, contains some of the finest wild brook trout habitat in the U.S., according to a news release from the organization.

The newly acquired tract includes the inlet of Little Kennebago Lake that angling writer Ray Bergman featured in his 1938 classic “Trout.”

It is also vital habitat for songbirds and mammals, said Shelby Rousseau, deputy director and director of stewardship at Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust.

“The ecological and biological significance of this region is just incredible,” Rousseau said. “I’m really proud to be part of this, that’s for sure. I’ve been with the organization for 25 years, and, wow, this is probably one of the most exciting projects that I’ve been involved in.”

The acquisition is part of a larger project to permanently conserve more than 10,000 acres of the Kennebago River headwaters north of Rangeley. In November, Black Brook, a partner organization, purchased more than 3,000 acres of adjacent land.

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“This part that we just closed on is like the core of it all, because it represents so much,” Rousseau said. “It’s got the river, it’s got the lake, it’s got the trout habitats, it’s got wetlands, it’s part of North American flyway zone. It’s not populated, but yet it’s accessible to the public.”

The Rangeley lakes Heritage Trust’s recent acquisition includes 2 miles of undeveloped shorefront on Little Kennebago Lake. Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust

Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust will begin negotiations to purchase an additional 5,000 acres of working forest in the region next week, she said. According to the news release, the trust intends to manage this parcel with a focus on increasing carbon storage and sequestration — processes which are critical for mitigating climate change — while sustainably harvesting timber with the long-term health of the forest in mind.

The trust is financing the project using a mixture of federal, state and private funds, however fundraising for the Kennebago Headwaters project is still ongoing, Rousseau explained. The most recent land purchase was made with a loan from the Conservation Fund, which they will need to repay.

“Efforts to conserve the Kennebago Headwaters have been years in the making,” said trust Executive Director David Miller. “Knowing how important this area is to the nation’s angling heritage, the ecology of the western Maine mountains, and the Rangeley community, we’re especially excited to see our project surging ahead.”

According to Rousseau, the trust has wanted to conserve land in the Kennebago headwaters for years, but it was only about a year-and-a-half ago that the organization began actively considering purchasing land.

Members of the public will be able to use these properties for hiking, fishing, boating, hunting and trapping.

“It’s going to be the same as always,” Rousseau said. “We’re not improving access, we’re not decreasing access.”

Little Kennebago Lake is a 40-minute drive from Rangeley, 90 minutes from Farmington and just over two hours from Lewiston.

According to the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust website, the organization has conserved 14,000 acres of land in the Rangeley Lakes region, including 50 miles of lake and river frontage, 15 islands and Bald Mountain.


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