The Downeast Lakes Forestry Partnership was a campaign to conserve the Farm Cove Community Forest, the Sunrise Easement, and the Saint Croix Corridor. In all, the partnership has secured 445 miles of lakeshore on 60 lakes and 1,500 miles of riverfront in Washington County. The completed project contributes to a block of over 1.3 million contiguous protected acres spanning the Maine – New Brunswick border. This corridor of conserved forest and wetland wildlife habitats extends from Nicatous Lake in Maine nearly to Saint John and Fredericton, New Brunswick. The project ensures that the region’s lakes, streams, and forests will avoid the haphazard development that is changing many of Maine’s remote areas.
The partners first purchased a 500-foot-wide corridor along fifty miles of Spednic Lake and the St. Croix River, which forms the Canadian border with Maine, a project launched earlier by the Woodie Wheaton Land Trust, and transferred that land to the state’s Division of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the Department of Conservation.
The Sunrise Easement covers 312,000 acres of private forestland managed by Wagner timberlands. This is most of the Georgia-Pacific company’s former Downeast Maine land base outside of the Farm Cove Community Forest.
The New England Forestry Foundation holds the conservation easement over these lands, permanently guaranteeing they will not be developed and will instead be available to sustain the forest products economy. The Maine Department of Conservation acquired a public access easement over the same lands, guaranteeing the public would forever be able to enjoy these lands for outdoor recreation.
The $34.8 million campaign began in 2003, and the land and easement purchases were completed in 2005. Bridge financing was used to complete the purchases, and the fundraising campaign formally concluded with an announcement in May of 2008.
Among the major benefactors was Elmina B. Sewall of Kennebunk, Maine, the largest individual donor, who contributed $6.2 million before her death in 2005; the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation subsequently granted another $1 million. Wal-Mart contributed $6.145 million through its “Acres for America” program administered by The Conservation Fund and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Other large donors included The Nature Conservancy, The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Open Space Institute, C.F. Adams Charitable Trust, the State’s Land for Maine’s Future Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Sweet Water Trust. The North Cape Oil Spill Settlement Fund provided a grant of $1.15 million, through an agreement to protect loon breeding grounds following a 1996 oil tanker spill off Rhode Island that killed 400 wintering loons. Donors from Grand Lake Stream and all across New England recruited by DLLT, NEFF, and the Leadership Committee rallied around the cause.