Loon Echo Land Trust (LELT) recently conserved 22 acres of forests and wetlands in Sebago. The land will become part of LELT’s Tiger Hill Community Forest which was conserved at the end of 2019. The now 1,451-acre Community Forest is home to sensitive wildlife habitat, working forestlands, and safeguards the water quality of Sebago Lake – the drinking water supply for one in six Maine residents.
“This land is an incredible gateway to the Tiger Hill Community Forest. In addition to its numerous attributes for wildlife and water quality conservation, cellar holes and stone walls on the property tell the history of a long-forgotten community in the “Folly” area of Sebago. We were so glad to work with the sellers, whose family had cared for the property for generations, to help them achieve their goals of permanently conserving the land and making it available to the public for low-impact recreation,” said LELT Executive Director Matt Markot.
Part of the 22 acres will be used to create a formal access point to the existing Community Forest. LELT plans to construct a small parking area with a kiosk and trail maps early this summer. A hand-carry boat launch on the newly conserved property will be formalized to provide better access for kayakers and canoeists to the Northwest River.
This latest conservation acquisition for LELT protects critical wetlands and important upland forest associated with the Northwest River, Sebago Lake’s second largest tributary. Additionally, the land supports rare natural communities like a leatherleaf fen, and habitat for critically threatened species like the northern long-eared bat and small-whorled pogonia, a member of the orchid family.
Purchased by LELT at the end of 2019, the Tiger Hill Community Forest property provides public access for a variety of outdoor recreation activities and connects critical forest resources, including an abutting property at Cold Rain Pond that is owned by the State of Maine. The property is home to moose, heron, bobcat and deer. Maintaining this undeveloped and connected landscape helps increase resilience to climate change. The Community Forest property was identified in 2016 by The Nature Conservancy as having exceptional capacity to support wildlife species adapting to the effects of a changing climate.
Tiger Hill Community Forest is a cornerstone project of Sebago Clean Waters, a collaborative effort of the Portland Water District and eight conservation organizations, including LELT. In addition to protecting Sebago Lake’s water quality, the partnership seeks to support community well-being and the health of fish and wildlife in the Sebago watershed through forestland conservation.
“We’re thrilled that by working together our partnership was able to help expand this community asset that is so important for keeping Greater Portland’s drinking water supply clean. Because forests filter water naturally, conserving land around major Sebago Lake tributaries like the Northwest River helps ensure pure drinking water for over 200,000 Mainers. The abundant recreational opportunities and critical wildlife habitat offered by this additional acreage make protecting it even more special,” said Sebago Clean Waters Coordinator Karen Young.
While still largely rural, Sebago and surrounding towns have experienced more than twice the population growth rate of the state as a whole. LELT’s expansion of the Tiger Hill Community Forest helps maintain the region’s rural character while benefiting the local tourism, outdoor recreation, and forest products industries. According to a 2019 University of Maine study, every $1 invested in forestland conservation in the Sebago region provides up to $8 in community benefits.
Owned by LELT, the Tiger Hill Community Forest is stewarded under the guidelines of a management plan. That plan was drafted with input from community members at a series of public meetings in 2019. Funding for the expansion of the Community Forest was provided by the Maine Natural Resources Conservation Program, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Portland Water District, the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, Sebago Clean Waters, The Robert and Dorothy Goldberg Charitable Foundation and many other generous families and individuals.
More information on Tiger Hill Community Forest, including maps, can be found here.