The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is evaluating creation of a newto 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. 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 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.