04/17/17 Moosehead Lake: Strong connections between conservation lands and economic health

By Karin L. Tilberg, Special to the Piscataquis Observer • April 17, 2017 The Forest Society of Maine (FSM), a land trust serving Maine’s North Woods, holds nearly 1 million acres of forestland in conservation easements. A good portion of the conservation easements we hold surround the Moosehead Lake region and extend to the north, west and east including many mountains, lakes and rivers. The conservation easements typically allow for continued sustainable forest management and the landowners, who still own the land, continue to pay taxes on the land. The public benefits from the permanently assured public access and the conservation of wildlife habitat, special natural areas, recreational assets, and scenic beauty the easements ensure. Easements are permanent and ensure stability that in turn gives confidence to communities and businesses to plan for forest management, recreational trails, permanent access for hunting, fishing, hiking, and enterprises that are geared to outdoor recreation activities. Given the extent of FSM’s easement holdings in the Moosehead Lake area, our organization has endeavored to strengthen the connections between the conservation provided by the easements and the economic benefits for businesses and communities. For the past four years, FSM’s staff has been an integral part of establishing permanent hiking trails on Weyerhaeuser (formerly Plum Creek) easement lands in collaboration with the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, and others. Our organization also has been a leader in starting a new group, Moosehead Trails, that brings together volunteers to help care for trails in the vicinity of Moosehead Lake. This is important for safety and for improving the experience of those using the trails, since those that enjoy well-maintained trails are more likely to return. FSM is investing a significant amount of organizational energy as part of the board of the Moosehead Lake Regional Economic Development Corporation (MLREDC). The MLREDC helped sponsor Roger Brooks International and the Moosehead Branding Initiative and held some exciting Think Tank Workshops guided by consultants from Future iQ for regional planning for the Moosehead Lake region. The goal of this work is to develop a shared vision within the Moosehead Lake communities for how best to celebrate the natural beauty of the waters, forests, and mountains of Moosehead Lake, and the amazing array of cultural, recreational and natural resource-based opportunities within the region. Central objectives of the branding of Moosehead Lake as America’s Crown Jewel are to bring more year-round residents to live in the area, extend the economic season to eight months (from five months) per year, and to celebrate and steward the natural resources of Moosehead Lake that make it such an icon. The Forest Society of Maine brings its knowledge and expertise to this task with great enthusiasm. We are honored to be an integral part of an amazing enterprise that is bringing together so many people who care about the future of Moosehead Lake. Karin R. Tilberg is deputy executive director of Bangor-based Forest Society of Maine. She can be reached at karin@fsmaine.org.