The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is evaluating creation of a new  national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

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 to conserve high priority fish and wildlife habitats in the High Peaks Region of Western Maine.

The High Peaks Region of Maine is approximately 90 miles north of Portland, Maine and 56 miles north-northwest of Augusta, Maine.  It is roughly encompassed by the towns of Rangeley, Stratton, Kingfield, Carrabassett Valley, Salem and Madrid in Franklin County.

The High Peaks region’s terrain is mountainous and steep. It ranges in elevation from approximately 600 feet to above the tree line. These elevational changes provide uniquely rapid transitions in natural communities, which may be beneficial to organisms adapting to climate change climate change
Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.

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. The region has the largest expanse of high-elevation forest in Maine, including 10 peaks over 4,000 feet. It contains the largest contiguous block of land in Maine above 2,700 feet, and the second largest block of land above 3,500 feet. Also, the land stretching across Saddleback Mountain to Crocker Mountain is one of the largest roadless areas (17,000 acres) in the State.

The region’s high-elevation habitats, and the species they support, are currently underrepresented in the Refuge System. Its alpine, rare plant, and natural communities provide habitats for many species of conservation concern, including the Bicknell’s thrush, blackpoll warbler, Blackburnian warbler, red crossbill, spruce grouse, Canada lynx, and northern bog lemming. The region’s major natural communities include: alpine arctic tundra, alpine, sub-alpine, krummholz, high montane forest, low montane forest, valley forest, and wetlands.

The cold, clear rivers and mountain streams in the High Peaks region have been recognized for their unparalleled importance for recovering the endangered Atlantic salmon. The Sandy River and its tributaries including Orbeton, Perham, Saddleback, Coddle, and Conan Streams are particularly important to the species’ recovery and have been designated as “Critical Habitat.”

Working in collaboration with landowners, outdoor enthusiasts, conservation partners and local communities, the Service is looking to identify lands that would significantly contribute to permanently conserving, protecting, and restoring habitat and securing permanent public access. The study area for this project is centered along the Appalachian trail corridor where high value and climate resilience habitats are concentrated.

The process of establishing a new national wildlife refuge requires preparation of a land protection plan (LPP) and environmental assessment (EA) which will be made available for a 45-day public review and comment period.  The responsibility to approve or disapprove the proposal rests with the Service’s Director. The LPP/EA will propose a boundary within which the Service may acquire interests in lands from willing sellers. Land protection work could be achieved with fee title or  conservation easement conservation easement
A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a government agency or qualified conservation organization that restricts the type and amount of development that may take place on a property in the future. Conservation easements aim to protect habitat for birds, fish and other wildlife by limiting residential, industrial or commercial development. Contracts may prohibit alteration of the natural topography, conversion of native grassland to cropland, drainage of wetland and establishment of game farms. Easement land remains in private ownership.

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 acquisition. Landowners who do not wish to sell or donate interests in land to the Service are under no obligation to do so.

For more information about this project, please see the Press Release and Frequently Asked Questions documents.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is pleased to announce public listening sessions/scoping workshops to gather public input on conservation, recreation, and economic opportunities -including the concept of a National Wildlife Refuge- in the High Peaks Region of Western Maine.

This is a document of Frequently Asked Questions about the proposed new refuge land in Maine High Peaks.


A bright blue sky obstructed by fluffy white clouds reflected off of a stream shot from inside a kayak
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages an unparalleled network of public lands and waters called the National Wildlife Refuge System. With more than 560 refuges spanning the country, this system protects iconic species and provides some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities on Earth.
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The realty division of the National Wildlife Refuge System supports the acquisition and management of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands, using Migratory Bird Conservation and Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars.


Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge Harper's Meadow and Errol Hill
Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, located in northern New Hampshire and Maine, welcomes you to its forests, wetlands, lakes, and rivers.

Library Collections

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The National Wildlife Refuge System is the world's largest collection of public lands and waters dedicated to wildlife conservation, and it continues to grow in size. The Service develops Land Protection Plans (LPP) to fully evaluate the establishment of new refuges and major expansions to existing...