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FBC Conserves Over 3,000 Acres in Upper Union River Watershed

October 24, 2022

Frenchman Bay Conservancy closed on two conservation easements in Aurora, permanently protecting 3,223 forever-wild acres of forest and wetlands.

Frenchman Bay Conservancy will hold conservation easements on the land, collectively referred to as Whalesback, in partnership with Northeast Wilderness Trust.

AURORA, ME—Frenchman Bay Conservancy (FBC) has closed on the purchase of two forever-wild conservation easements in Aurora, referred to as Whalesback, protecting 3,223 acres. Forever-wild is the highest available conservation protection for land in the United States. 

The Whalesback easements protect an extensive habitat block that includes a portion of the Union River’s headwaters, and provides exceptional wildlife habitat for inland waterfowl, wading birds, brook trout, endangered Atlantic salmon, and many other wide-ranging species. The Whalesback project is part of FBC’s mission to conserve large, undeveloped landscapes along the Union River and its major tributaries. 

“Whalesback is a biodiversity hotspot that is large enough, and close enough to other large conserved properties, such as the nearby Amherst Mountain Community Forest, that the property will act as a core refuge for species moving across the landscape in response to climate change, “ says Aaron Dority, FBC’s Executive Director. “By protecting uninterrupted landscapes, we’re creating wildlife corridors that protect Maine’s iconic species and the ecosystems that build Hancock County’s resilience to climate change.”

Frenchman Bay Conservancy does not have plans to build trails on the property, but the land will remain open to public access for hunting and fishing, primarily by the State-owned boat launch on Route 9 along the Middle Branch of the Union River.

Northeast Wilderness Trust (NEWT), a regional land trust with a focus on wilderness conservation, helped make the Whalesback conservation project possible through a financial contribution as part of its Wildlands Partnership initiative. Northeast Wilderness Trust will co-hold the forever-wild conservation easements.

“Wildlands Partnership is about expanding forever-wild protection across the Northeast through partnership with conservation organizations,” Caitlin Mather, Land Protection Manager, said.  “We are thrilled to partner with Frenchman Bay Conservancy to protect the biologically rich Whalesback properties and are grateful to the landowners who saw the need to conserve their lands as wild.”

The individual landowners of the protected properties will enroll Whalesback in NEWT’s Wildlands Carbon program. Wildlands Carbon generates revenue from the sale of carbon offset credits from lands recently protected as forever-wild. The carbon credits are sold on the voluntary market. Carbon credits promise buyers that a property is sequestering and storing carbon that would otherwise contribute to global warming.

Financial partners include NEWT, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA) Program, Ram Island Conservation Fund of Maine Community Foundation, and The Anahata Foundation. This project was funded in part by the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund (MOHF), in which proceeds from the sale of a dedicated instant lottery ticket (currently Money Comb) are used to support outdoor recreation and natural resource conservation. For more information about MOHF, go to www.maine.gov/ifw/mohf.

For questions or further information, please contact FBC Executive Director Aaron Dority at aaron@frenchmanbay.org; (207) 422-2328.

In the News:

3,223 Aurora acres to be ‘forever-wild’ (Ellsworth American)

Land trust conserves 3,200 acres in Aurora (Bangor Daily News)

Talk of the Towns 1/11/23: “Forever Wild” Conservation Easement Downeast (WERU)