Recreation and Wildlife

Frenchman Bay Community Forest

Located in the ancestral homeland of the Abenaki and Wabanaki people

Michael Perlman, courtesy of Frenchman Bay Conservancy

Hancock, ME

3100 Acres Community Forest

Property Amenities

  • Rivers and Streams
  • Connects to Down East Sunrise Trail
  • Trails

NEFF conserved this Downeast Maine forestland near Hancock County’s Egypt Bay, and then combined its 3,100 acres with Frenchman Bay Conservancy’s adjacent Frenchman Bay Community Forest. Thanks to this collaboration, Frenchman Bay Community Forest—a truly beautiful woodland—has reached 4,530 total acres.

NEFF’s Frenchman Bay tract is home to important habitat features, including waterways and wetlands that support inland wading birds, and the overall Community Forest intersects with the popular 87-mile Down East Sunrise Trail. NEFF is managing the property for songbird habitat, specifically to create and support stop-over and nesting habitat for migratory songbirds within the framework of Exemplary Forestry standards.

What Are Easements and Community Forests?

NEFF conserves its Community Forests through ownership, and they are open daily, free to visit, and offer outdoor recreation opportunities. Unlike NEFF’s Community Forests, land protected by NEFF easements—a legal tool—aren’t open to visitors unless their owners explicitly state so, because many belong to private individuals.

NEFF uses easements to conserve land owned by others. When a landowner grants NEFF an easement, it means they have permanently donated or sold to NEFF the landowner’s right to develop their own property, while the landowner otherwise retains ownership of their land; NEFF ensures the easements’ terms are met and enforced.

New England Forestry Foundation
Lauren Owens Lambert

A Downeast Woods and Wildlife Surprise

NEFF kicked off its Downeast Woods and Wildlife project in the late 2010s, with the goal of purchasing and conserving forestlands along Downeast Maine’s winding and sun-dappled Dennys River. The river’s waters—kept cool and clean by riverside forests—provide critical habitat to Maine’s endangered Atlantic Salmon population and other cold-water fish.

NEFF went on to purchase the 1,160-acre riverside Reynolds Family Forest in summer 2018 and took ownership of the 2,200-acre Venture Brook Community Forest in December 2020. That alone would have been enough to call the project a success, but in October 2020, NEFF received two donated Downeast Maine properties totaling 5,700 acres that also benefit wild animals, just ones with feathers rather than fins.

Frenchman Bay Community Forest

The Origin Story

The story of these donated properties begins in 2003 when the Maine Wind Energy Act first passed (it has since been updated). The law was strongly influenced by NEFF’s Maine Representative and Senior Advisor, Alec Giffen, then the State Forester of Maine and chair of the Governor’s task force on wind power siting. Under the Maine Wind Energy Act, wind energy developers often are required to mitigate the ecological and scenic impact of their installations.

In keeping with the Act, Weaver Wind LLC set out in 2019 to mitigate their Maine-based wind project by purchasing two Downeast parcels of songbird habitat: a 2,690-acre parcel along Holmes Bay in Washington County, and a 3,100-acre parcel near Egypt Bay in Hancock County.

Habitat and biodiversity experts crafted Songbird Habitat Management Plans for the forestlands that ended up calling for the kinds of intensive management activities required to create and improve large habitat blocks; Weaver Wind then looked for conservation organizations qualified to take over both ownership and intensive management of the parcels, and NEFF was deemed the best fit given its more than 75 years of forestry and stewardship experience on its own lands. NEFF named the Washington County parcel Holmes Stream Community Forest and made the Hancock County parcel part of the larger Frenchman Bay Community Forest.

Frenchman Bay Community Forest

Balancing Wildlife and Responsible Recreation

Through management of Frenchman Bay Community Forest, NEFF’s goal is to create and support stop-over and nesting habitat for migratory songbirds within the framework of Exemplary Forestry standards, with a particular emphasis on the needs of ten priority species: the American Redstart, Bay-breasted Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Canada Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Rusty Blackbird, Veery and Wood Thrush.

A female Black-and-white Warbler on NEFF’s Frenchman Bay Community Forest. The property’s Songbird Habitat Management Plan also flagged this migratory species as one as concern, and it will benefit from NEFF’s management. Photo by Lauren Owens Lambert.

This means the property needs to provide water, species-specific food and species-specific shelter for birds making mid-migration pitstops as well as birds who plan to set up shop for the summer and join Maine’s immense population of breeding birds. Once the habitat work is complete on the property, Frenchman Bay should be full of the bright sights and cacophonous sounds of breeding birds and their babies every spring and summer.

To achieve these results across the property, NEFF will:

  • Create and maintain young northern hardwood habitat, a type of crucial early successional habitat in short supply in Maine
  • Conserve, enhance and restore both old northern mixed wood habitat and old northern softwood habitat, which can both be managed to provide old-growth characteristics 
  • Conserve and protect wetlands
  • Protect and promote broadly useful habitat features like snags, cavity trees, native plant biodiversity, and mast plants that produce nutritious fruits, nuts and seeds

While wildlife habitat creation and restoration will be a major feature of NEFF’s work on the property, like all NEFF Community Forests, is open to the public and allows traditional recreational activities.

The Frenchman Bay Conservancy (FBC) played a key role in working with nearby communities to identify how the Frenchman Bay Community Forest addresses local recreational needs. FBC and NEFF are drafting an inclusive, forest-wide stewardship plan that will provide a full array of recreational uses, wildlife habitat protection, and support for the Sunrise Trail.

Explore Our Forests

Trail Maps

Want to head out and explore? Our interactive map of all NEFF Community Forests will help you get on your way. It provides property-specific trail maps you can download, as well information about each forest’s history, recreational opportunities, natural features, and more.

New England Forestry Foundation