In March 2001, New England Forestry Foundation and the Pingree family completed the largest forestland conservation easement in the history of the United States. The project permanently protects 762,192 acres from development.
Three and a half times the size of Baxter State Park, and larger than the state of Rhode Island, the Pingree easement conserves some of the most spectacular natural resources in Maine, including the Allagash Lakes and 16 miles along the St. John River. The easement also protects portions of the Cupsuptic, Black, Little Black, St. John, Machias, and Aroostook Rivers, as well as Upper Richardson, Kennebago, Munsungan, Loon, Caucomgomoc, Eagle, Chamberlain, Allagash, Mooseleuk, and Churchill Lakes. The forests contain numerous active bald eagle nests, 24,800 acres of managed deeryards, 72,000 acres of wetland habitat, Maine’s most productive peregrine falcon nesting area, and at least 67 rare and endangered plant sites.
Steve Schley, president of Pingree Associates, Inc., agents for the Pingree family, said, “The family is very pleased to have worked with New England Forestry Foundation to conserve this magnificent Maine forestland. Now we can move forward with our primary objective of managing our forests sustainably, and contributing to the forest economy of Maine.” The Pingree forest was the first in the world to be “Green Certified” by two independent third-party certifiers.
More than 45 foundations, both large and small, contributed to the success of the project, including The John Merck Fund and the Merck Family Fund, each of which provided major lead gifts to launch the fundraising initiative. The Libra Foundation made the largest single gift from a Maine-based foundation. Generous grants also were received from the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the Sudbury Foundation, the Betterment Fund, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act fund, and the agencies involved with the North Cape Oil Spill (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
More than 1,000 individuals also contributed to the success of this project, including $831.42 from the children at Breakwater School in Portland, Maine who conducted a penny drive to raise the funds. Further, the acreage protected was increased thanks to participation of the Maine Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. Its financial support and the addition of forested acres from its recent acquisition added protection for the St John River and Big Reed Pond.
A broad coalition formed among the state’s various conservation, sporting, and business organizations to support the purchase of the Pingree easement. Participants included the Forest Society of Maine, Sportsmen’s Alliance of Maine, Maine Audubon Society, Northern Forest Alliance, Chewonki Foundation, Maine AFL-CIO, Maine Forest Products Council, Maine Professional Guides, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust, Ducks Unlimited, Maine Appalachian Trail Club, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Maine Council of Trout Unlimited, Maine Snowmobile Association, Maine Sporting Camp Association, Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Businesses for the Northern Forest, and the Maine Tourism Association.
Be sure to read NEFF’s celebratory piece, “The Pingree Easement’s 20th Anniversary.”
Top photo of a Maine Bald Eagle by Paul VanDerWerf/(CC BY 2.0)