Frenchman Bay
Community Forest Easement

The Frenchman Bay Community Forest in Hancock, Maine is a 1,435-acre public forest with extensive wetlands close to the coast. Not far from Ellsworth, it was purchased by Frenchman Bay Conservancy in 2021. The Conservancy then granted a forever-wild easement to Northeast Wilderness Trust, ensuring this large forest facing high development pressure will grow old and wild.

Frenchman Bay Community Forest in Hancock, Maine was the first completed conservation project through the Wildlands Partnership. An adjacent 3,100 acres are protected by New England Forestry Foundation, creating a real, on-the-ground example of how a mosaic of conservation approaches can weave together to create a healthy, sustainable landscape for both human and wild communities. These protected lands are within a 25,000-acre block of undeveloped forest—a rare find within one mile of the coast.

The Down East Sunrise Trail runs through the Community Forest, so people of all walks of life can enjoy this beautiful place and directly experience the land rewilding over time. Frenchman Bay Conservancy sees this place as a perfect fit for outdoor education and “living classrooms”, and will be welcoming walking, snowshoeing, birdwatching, and certain types of hunting on the land. The new Community Forest also protects clean water within the Kilkenny and Egypt Streams, which flow into Kilkenny Cove and Egypt Bay.

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

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.

Wild landscapes, especially at low elevations, are missing from our region. 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.

Aaron Dority

Executive Director, Frenchman Bay Conservancy

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.

Photography and video by Jerry Monkman/Ecophotography