2013 to mark MWI's first decade
By Rob Burbank
AMC Outdoors, January/February 2013
Looking to provide opportunities for new nature-based tourism while walking the talk of landscape-scale conservation, AMC purchased 37,000 acres of forestland in Maine’s 100-Mile Wilderness region and kicked off its Maine Woods Initiative (MWI) in November 2003.
The initiative was designed to address the ecological and economic needs of the region by supporting local forest products jobs, building community partnerships, and creating new multi-day recreational experiences.
A decade later, AMC owns and manages nearly 70,000 acres—100 square miles—of conservation and recreation land for the public. The property features three wilderness lodges (and a fourth family-owned partner lodge) connected by New England’s largest backcountry network of lodge-served, groomed cross-country ski trails.
AMC now manages more than 80 miles of hiking trails and cross-country ski routes on the property, and has improved access to five backcountry trout ponds on its land. This past summer, 10 miles of stream habitat were opened in one of the region’s healthiest wild brook trout fisheries. AMC accomplished this by removing three large culverts that were impeding fish passage and replacing them with wooden bridges, thus enhancing the aquatic habitat while maintaining an existing ski trail and hiking corridor.
AMC’s forestry program hit its targets for timber harvesting this past year, while employing local logging crews and supplying local mills with wood. In addition, nearly 21,000 acres are managed as ecological reserve lands to help protect the brook trout fishery and other significant plant and animal communities. AMC’s management will also increase carbon storage in its forests (both reserved and those managed for timber harvest), which will help combat climate change.
From the start, AMC was committed to being an involved member of Piscataquis County–determined to ensure that the organization’s lodging, forestry, recreational, and educational offerings would benefit the community at large. Today, AMC employs 11 full-time workers and associated seasonal staff in the region, and senior staff members serve on the boards of the local chamber of commerce and the regional economic development council.
The commitment to the community deepened this past year with the launch of the AMC Maine Woods Community Youth and Environment Project, funded by the family of Malcolm Hecht Jr., a new program designed to provide place-based outdoor learning opportunities for local young people.
AMC staff also assisted the Maine Warden Service as volunteers on a number of search and rescue incidents over the past several months.
AMC reprises its support of the local Wilderness Sled Dog Race on February 2. Its Medawisla property will be the official halfway point for the 100-mile race and a mandatory rest stop for mushers and their dogs. Medawisla Wilderness Lodge and Cabins remains closed for renovations to satisfy health and safety codes and AMC’s high standards of customer service. Reopening is anticipated in approximately a year.
At AMC’s other Maine Wilderness Lodges, guests enjoyed fresh produce from on-site gardens this past summer and fall, with Maine Chapter members lending their muscle in getting the new Gorman Chairback garden established. Recent improvements at Little Lyford included creation of a welcoming porch, a library, and a roomier dining area. Renovations were completed on The Den and Wolf Star cabins.
As the 10th anniversary of MWI approaches, AMC members, volunteers, staff, and supporters continue to contribute to a grand effort that has become an innovative model for landscape-scale conservation and outdoor recreation. At the outset, Senior Vice President Walter Graff called the initiative “a big idea that needs a big place,” and Maine has fit the bill as the launch pad for that big idea.