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Frenchman Bay Community Forest to Stay Forever Wild

For immediate release: October 31, 2021

Hancock, ME – The recently established Frenchman Bay Community Forest in Hancock is now conserved as wilderness. The 1,435-acre public forest was purchased by Frenchman Bay Conservancy this past March. This week, the Conservancy granted a forever-wild easement on the land to Northeast Wilderness Trust, a regional land trust focused on wildlands. This permanent legal protection ensures the forest will grow old and wild.

The two land trusts have been working together through the Wildlands Partnership program, an initiative of Northeast Wilderness Trust which seeks to engage local land trusts across New England and New York in forever-wild conservation.

“Wild landscapes, especially at low elevations, are missing from our region,” said Aaron Dority, Executive Director of Frenchman Bay Conservancy. “Creating the conditions for old-growth forest to return to Downeast Maine, in a place where the community can have a firsthand relationship to the land, has been a special opportunity.”

The forever-wild designation means that the forest will be shaped by natural and ecological processes, rather than management or forestry. The community will be able to visit the land to walk, learn, explore, and witness the process of rewilding—the act of giving land back to nature’s rule. Over time, the young forest on the land will mature, eventually regaining old-growth status. Rewilding landscapes offer many important benefits such as wildlife habitat, carbon storage and sequestration, clean water, resilience to storms and flooding, and places of solace where people can experience the beauty and peace of wild nature.

“As we face the painful realities of biodiversity loss and climate change, putting new wildlands on the map is one of the most hopeful offerings we can give each other, wildlife, and the land,” said Sophie Ehrhardt, Wildlands Partnership Coordinator at Northeast Wilderness Trust. “It’s been a pleasure to work with Frenchman Bay Conservancy and we are already growing our partnership as we look towards future conservation projects in the local area.”

The Wildlands Partnership launched in 2020 with the goal of increasing wilderness conservation across the Northeast. In addition to the Frenchman Bay region, the Wilderness Trust is collaborating with land trusts in Connecticut and New York, focusing on areas valuable for climate resilience and wildlife habitat connectivity. The Frenchman Bay Community Forest easement is the first success of the Partnership. The Wilderness Trust hopes to secure 9,000 forever-wild acres this year through the Wildlands Partnership, and to expand the program to new landscapes in 2022.

Frenchman Bay Conservancy is enrolling the land in the Wilderness Trust’s “Wildlands Carbon” program. Wildlands Carbon credits will be generated on the property and sold on the voluntary carbon market. The credits directly support the permanent protection of the Community Forest, and contribute to Frenchman Bay Conservancy’s future conservation work.

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Photography: Kelsey Buckley/Frenchman Bay Conservancy