The new Reid-Lahti Wetlands Preserve is seen from East Madison Road in Madison. Photo by J Brockway/Somerset Woods Trustees

MADISON — A regional nonprofit land trust has acquired more than 50 acres of wetlands in East Madison next to the north inlet of Lake Wesserunsett.

The Somerset Woods Trustees will protect the land, which group officials say is crucial for wildlife habitat and water quality in the adjacent 1,446-acre lake.

The wetlands were previously owned by David Bonsignore, according to Jennifer Brockway, the executive director of Somerset Woods Trustees. The parcel unexpectedly went up for sale in 2022, and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture bought it for $70,000 with plans to eventually transfer its ownership to the land trust.

“The ability of the school to serve as conservation buyer allowed this project to proceed,” Brockway said in a news release.

The Somerset Woods Trustees and Lake Wesserunsett Association have since worked together to purchase the wetlands, the release said.

“Our three organizations have a shared commitment to the health of Lake Wesserunsett,” Brockway said. “That commitment helped produce a watershed conservation plan in 2021, and now, completion of our first collaborative conservation project.”


Advocates said earlier this year, after the art school bought the land, that they were pursuing conservation efforts due to several ongoing concerns.

“It’s a lake that’s very vulnerable to development and a rapid decline in water quality,” Brockway said at the time.

The purchase by Somerset Woods Trustees was officially completed Nov. 17, according to the organization. The land trust received financial support from Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program, the Lake Wesserunsett Association, and a gift to the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture made by Warren and Brammie Cook, according to the release.

The land is named for Will Reid and Eric Lahti, two longtime supporters of protection of Lake Wesserunsett, the release said.

The Somerset Woods Trustees owns several other conserved lands in the Skowhegan area and it also works to provide trails and water access at the preserves.

Plans are already in place for a winter hike and spring paddle at the new preserve, according to the organization.

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