frequently crashes spectacularly against the great sloping rocks at the tip.
On the north end, the Donnell Pond Unit was acquired by the state
beginning in 1988. Its natural character is reminiscent of the better-known
Mount Desert Island a dozen miles southwest. Prominent glacier-sculpted
hills with much exposed granite rise above remote woods and clear lakes.
Once these bookends were established, conservation partners – federal,
state, municipal, and nonprofit – began working in close cooperation to
conserve linking parcels with fee acquisitions and conservation easements,
sometimes by purchase and sometimes by gift. As of late 2016, the total
mainland acreage permanently protected between Acadia National Park and
the Donnell Pond Unit, excluding them, is about 3,300 acres in fee ownership
and 3,100 acres under conservation easements.
For years, there was an elephant in the room between Acadia and the
Donnell Pond Unit – 3,200 privately owned acres abutting Acadia. Acadia
National Park Superintendent Sheridan Steele called the parcel “a dagger
to the heart of Acadia” because the property spans almost the entire width
of the peninsula, and too much or poorly sited development there could
seriously impair scenic vistas and the ecological integrity of S2S. Years of
effort by many parties to protect the parcel led nowhere until 2011, when
an anonymous philanthropist bought the property. The conservation-oriented
investment firm Lyme Timber facilitated the transaction. The southern
half, mostly rough land dominated by red spruce, white cedar, and
jack pine and recovering from hard cutting 20 years ago, has been
added to Acadia National Park, with old logging roads transformed
Decisions about the final disposition of the northern half – arguably
the most important part ecologically because of its extensive fresh-water wetlands – are ongoing. The anonymous owners have already
given permission for the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park
to establish forest monitoring plots as part of a plan for such study
sites from Schoodic Point to Schoodic Mountain. The Institute’s forest
ecology program director, Dr. Nicholas Fisichelli, explained that, “This
area has a strong climate gradient driven by the maritime influence
and thus provides a tremendous opportunity to study forest dynamics
and change across the local landscape.” This research follows work
done by University of Maine forestry students on the Schoodic Point
area’s significant jack pine stands.
The north-south endpoints of S2S are easy to determine, but the
east-west span is open to interpretation. Included in the corridor vision
are coastal islands flanking the peninsula, for birds, some mammals,
and some plant species easily cross narrow stretches of water. A
milestone success in this geography was The Nature Conservancy’s
first Maine island purchase, 129-acre Turtle Island, home to a rookery
for great blue herons. Subsequently, many more islands east and
west of the Schoodic peninsula have been preserved. Turtle Island
was bought in 1963 to prevent its being denuded for the St. Regis
pulp mill on the lower Penobscot River in Bucksport. Taking wood
from Maine islands was still economically viable, although subsequently the economics became prohibitive. Today, that mill and others
nearby are gone. A biomass electric generation plant in Jonesboro
has also closed, adding to the challenge of profitably managing even
mainland working forestlands in the area. So far, markets continue to
Northern Woodlands’ “Stewardship Story” series is sponsored by the Stifler Family Foundation, in support of forestry practices that promote healthy and
sustainable forests and wildlife habitat.
Schoodic to Schoodic; conserved areas shown in green.
Leaving the cove, I struggled across slash left in a clear cut to reach the
property’s other side, which fronts on a large marsh, much of which is on
abutting property under conservation easement. Not only was this parcel
important to wildlife crossing Route 1, but, significantly, it would enlarge a
block already conserved and one with promising conservation opportunities
to the north linking to the Donnell Pond Unit. If ever a property exemplified the
importance of strategic connector parcels in preserving a corridor, this was it.
This parcel that Maine Coast Heritage Trust spotted as an opportunity, and on
which the conservation fund helped negotiate, was purchased by Frenchman
Bay Conservancy 18 months after my visit, fabulously exemplifying the
effective partnerships powering S2S.
Ben Emory has worked in Maine and national land conservation professionally
and as a volunteer for nearly half a century. In his free time, he enthusiastically
engages in all that the Maine outdoors offers on land and sea.