HANCOCK — Frenchman Bay Conservancy (FBC) is hoping to raise a total of $900,000 to preserve 1,400 acres in Hancock as part of a larger 4,500-acre conservation project.
“To find a larger, intact property like this is becoming less and less frequent,” said FBC Land Protection Manager Kat Deely. “The fact that that land is intact makes it a really special place.”
Once part of a parcel owned by logger Dale Henderson, who owned more than 6,000 contiguous acres, the land is crisscrossed by the Egypt and Kilkenney streams and lies just 5 miles from Ellsworth along the Down East Sunrise Trail. The nonprofit plans to eventually build walking, hiking, biking and snowshoeing trails on the property, if it is able to purchase it. It will be open to hunters as well, in part to help manage the large population of white-tailed deer, which can be detrimental to other species if left unchecked.
“They are not necessarily the healthiest thing when overpopulated,” said Deely.
There likely won’t be any camping allowed, as the organization hopes to manage the space primarily for habitat preservation.
Motorized vehicles will likely not be allowed on the property, FBC Executive Director Aaron Dority said, although he noted that they are allowed on the nearby Sunrise Trail, which runs for a mile along the property’s northern border.
There are 63 different bird species on the property, said Deely, which is unique in part because it is still functioning as a single ecological unit, “not fragmented by development or major roads.” The forest is part of a nearly 25,000-acre undeveloped “habitat block,” which FBC staff estimate is likely the largest remaining undeveloped habitat block in Hancock County within a mile of the coast.
An additional 3,100 acres of land abuts the parcel and is slated for conservation through the New England Forestry Foundation as mitigation for the development of wind energy turbines.
“This area is under particular threat of development,” said Deely. “It’s an area that is kind of primed for subdivision and new homes, it’s close to the coast … this property really could be cut up, be fragmented, very significantly if we don’t try and protect it.”
The conservancy has already raised more than $760,000, said Dority in a webinar on Sept. 10, enough to cover the $664,950 purchase price of the property, which would put the cost at around $475 per acre. The rest of the funding raised will be put toward stewarding the land, including building and maintaining trails (estimated to cost $178,100), as well as campaign costs for the project (estimated at $55,486). There will also be money set aside for taxes to the town of Hancock, said Dority.
“We want to make sure that we’re able to generate tax revenue for the town of Hancock because this is a pretty significant, large property,” he said.