The 100-Mile Wilderness lies in the heart of Maine’s North Woods, a region that features some of the largest areas of undeveloped forests, lakes, and ponds in the United States and an area of exceptionally high habitat connectivity and resilience to climate change.
The Pleasant River Headwaters Forest is an especially high priority for the Appalachian Mountain Club because it is adjacent to more than 75,000 acres currently owned and managed by AMC. The property is situated in the center of the 100-Mile Wilderness Area that stretches along the Appalachian Trail corridor from Monson to Baxter State Park. Acquiring and restoring the property will conserve one of the last remaining large, unprotected forest blocks in the region.
“This property plays a key role in landscape connectivity and climate change resilience in the 100-Mile Wilderness” says AMC Senior Vice President Walter Graff. “Securing its future and restoring critical wildlife habitat here will ensure the protection of more than 150 squares miles of forest, enhancing our ongoing efforts to provide recreation access, support the regional economy, and further opportunities for conservation and education.”
Permanent conservation of the Pleasant River Headwaters Forest property will add to watershed protection of both the West and Middle Branches of the Pleasant River, which serve as a critical designated habitat for Atlantic salmon and native brook trout. Future efforts by AMC to restore aquatic habitat on the property will help to reestablish renowned native brook trout populations and allow Atlantic salmon to return to native spawning grounds in the headwater streams of the West Branch for the first time in nearly two centuries—making it one of the only places in the state where this will be possible.
A connected and healthy watershed is critical to species resilience. By removing culverts installed by logging companies that block fish passage, and replacing them with bridges, AMC has already opened 44 miles of stream habitat for brook trout on its existing property, beginning to reconnect a tremendous web of habitat that has been fractured by human interruption for over 150 years.
Acquiring the Pleasant River Headwaters Forest also adds area to a climate resilient landscape. As species begin to shift their ranges due to climate change they seek landscape diversity and local connectedness. Therefore, large areas of intact forestland are crucial.
Keeping forests intact is crucial to keep pace with a warming climate, and it is through active forest management that AMC is looking to increase the forest’s ability to sequester and store carbon.
Future restorative forestry efforts on the property will position multi-use forestland as the ideal stronghold for ecological resilience and climate adaptability, providing more and higher quality wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) to local and regional mills while simultaneously improving habitat and doubling carbon sequestration on AMC’s Maine lands. Through careful forest management, AMC will leverage its ownership to sustain local economies and keep the land open for public access.
On a broader scale, AMC’s land is the southern anchor of a 60-mile corridor of conserved land encompassing over 500,000 acres owned by AMC, The Nature Conservancy, the state of Maine and the federal government. When adjacent working forest easement lands are included in this conservation landscape, the total continuous conserved land encompasses over 750,000 acres – nearly the size of the White Mountain National Forest. The Pleasant River Headwaters Forest is one of the few remaining large, key inholdings in this landscape.
AMC has launched a $25 million fundraising campaign to enable it to take ownership within the next five years, and permanently conserve and steward this critical working forest landscape. This will provide critical watershed protection for the Pleasant River as well as regional economic benefits through expanded nature-based tourism opportunities and sustainable forestry operations.