We are excited to announce the permanent conservation of 362 acres of undeveloped forestland in Naples! After a multi-year fundraising effort, Loon Echo Land Trust (LELT) purchased a conservation easement from the landowner, Oani-SC LLC, on November 13th.
The land will remain under private ownership, however the easement permanently secures public access for hunting, fishing, hiking, and other recreational activities while prohibiting commercial and residential development and subdivision. In the future, we will construct a small parking area and trail to improve access to the shore of Sebago Lake.
“The Lake Region has a long and proud tradition of public use on private land for hunting and fishing,” shared LELT Executive Director Matt Markot, “We’re proud to protect those traditional uses and enhance access for other recreational activities.”
The conservation easement remains with the land regardless of future ownership of the property, turning the 362-acre property into a “forever forest.” The easement allows the landowner to conduct sustainable forestry and outlines forest management goals to promote carbon sequestration and biodiversity. Under the conservation easement, the landowner will continue to pay property taxes.
“We’re grateful to the landowner for working with LELT to keep their property forested and open to the public forever,” said LELT Board President Sheila Bourque.
The property, known as the Sebago Cove Forest because of its 2,500 feet of frontage on Sebago Cove (part of Sebago Lake), is an important addition to the region’s network of conserved lands. In close proximity to LELT’s Tiger Hill Community Forest, the land is part of a large network of undeveloped forest in the vicinity of the Muddy River and Sebago Lake. In addition to protecting rare, undeveloped waterfront on Maine’s second largest lake, the property is home to wetlands, vernal pools, wild brook trout habitat, and deer wintering areas.
Sebago Cove Forest is also within the traditional and unceded territory of the Abenaki, a member tribe of the Wabanaki Confederacy. The Abenaki First Nations of Odanak and Wôlinak maintain reservations along the St. Francis and St. Lawrence Rivers in the Canadian province of Quebec, where they sought refuge following colonial warfare in the Saco and Androscoggin River watersheds during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Protecting this land plays an important role in safeguarding the water quality of Sebago Lake, which is the source of drinking water for over 200,000 Mainers and many Cumberland County businesses on a daily basis. Sebago Lake is so clean, thanks in large part to its forested watershed, that it is one of 50 surface water supplies (out of over 13,000) in the country that is not required to be filtered.
The effort to conserve Sebago Cove Forest is part of a larger, regional conservation effort called Sebago Clean Waters (SCW). SCW is a coalition of ten nonprofit partners, including LELT, working with the Portland Water District to accelerate the pace of land conservation in the Sebago Lake watershed in order to protect water quality, community well-being, a vibrant economy, and fish and wildlife habitat.
"We're thrilled that by working together our partnership was able to help protect this community asset that is so important for keeping Greater Portland's drinking water supply clean,” said SCW Partnership Director Karen Young. “The abundant recreational opportunities and critical wildlife habitat offered by this land make protecting it even more important."
Sebago Clean Waters contributed funds toward the long-term management, stewardship, and enforcement of the conservation easement through a grant from the IDEXX Foundation. Other forward-thinking Portland-area businesses that recognize the importance of clean Sebago Lake water for their communities and businesses to thrive, such as Allagash Brewing Company, Bissell Brothers Brewing and Lone Pine Brewing Company, also provide funding to support the work of the SCW partnership.
The Sebago Cove Forest project was also funded through the Open Space Institute’s Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund, which supports the protection of climate resilient lands for wildlife and communities. The Fund is made possible thanks to major support from the Doris Duke Foundation and additional funding from Lyndhurst, Riverview, and Tucker Foundations, and Jack McKee. The project was also funded in part by the Open Space Institute in partnership with Sebago Clean Waters, to protect the Sebago Lake watershed.
“The Open Space Institute was proud to support this project through our Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund,” said Joel Houser, OSI’s Director of Capital Grants. “This fund was created with the goal of protecting lands with the ability to absorb and store carbon emissions in a changing climate. This conservation achievement accomplishes that and so much more. We congratulate our partners at Sebago Clean Waters on this important project.”
The property was also conserved with financial assistance from the Land for Maine’s Future Fund. The Land for Maine's Future Program is the State of Maine's primary funding source for conserving land for its natural, economic, and recreational value. Additional funders for the project include The Nature Conservancy, Portland Water District, John Sage Foundation, an anonymous foundation, and Lake Region community members.
More information on Sebago Cove Forest can be found at lelt.org/sebago-cove-forest.
Loon Echo Land Trust, founded in 1987, is a nonprofit organization that protects land, ensures public access to the outdoors, and builds and maintains recreational trails in Raymond, Casco, Naples, Harrison, Sebago, Bridgton, and Denmark. The organization currently conserves over 8,500 acres of land and manages a 35 mile trail network across the Lake Region. LELT protects many important local landmarks like Pleasant Mountain, Bald Pate Mountain, Raymond Community Forest and Hacker’s Hill. For more information on LELT properties, upcoming events, or how to get involved, visit LELT.org or their Facebook page.
Sebago Clean Waters is a partnership of ten local, regional, and national conservation organizations and the Portland Water District working collaboratively to protect water quality, community well-being, a vibrant economy, and fish and wildlife habitat in the Sebago region through voluntary forest conservation and stewardship. Learn more at sebagocleanwaters.org.