State of Maine's Environment 2005
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An Environmental Assessment  

Conserving Maine’s North Woods: The Potential for a State Park based Conservation Effort

Scott M. Shahverdian



            The Maine North Woods encompasses over 3 million acres of unprotected forests in Northern Maine.1  It provides for a variety of land uses, ranging from recreation in the form of hunting, fishing, hiking, and snowmobiling to large scale forestry and timber extraction. Currently the majority of the Maine North Woods is privately owned by large timber companies.1

            The last decade has seen an unprecedented amount of land ownership changes in Maine. Approximately six million acres, constituting nearly one-third of Maine’s commercial timber lands, changed hands from 1998-2003.2  These changes have precipitated concern about development and public access. They have spurred action by many interest groups dedicated to preserving public access, ecological integrity, and traditional forestry uses, particularly timber.

            Two of the proposals currently facing Maine’s North Woods are the RESTORE Maine Woods National Park (MWNP) proposal, and the Plum Creek proposal. Proponents of a large scale conservation effort in the Maine North Woods like the advocacy group RESTORE have proposed a Maine North Woods National Park. However this proposal has faced strong opposition from many sportsmen and private landowners who dislike the idea of federal presence in the North Woods. Furthermore there is concern that a National Park would limit traditional land use practices in the region including hunting and forestry, uses that have been a part of the regions livelihood for centuries. In December 2004 Plum Creek Timber Company submitted a plan for development that seeks to rezone over 400,000 acres in the Moosehead Lake region. This proposal is a manifestation of a very different vision of the North Woods, one dominated by development and the continuation of industrial forest practices.

Historically there has been an informal agreement between large landowners and private citizens that recreation can take place on private lands, and the “it’s not ours but we own it” mentality of many recreationists has been the prevailing ideology in Maine’s North Woods. Consequently both the Maine Woods National Park and Plum Creek proposals are viewed by some as threats to traditional land uses.

This paper uses this context explore one possible alternative for the Maine North Woods, a state park conservation system. To do so I examine the structure of state parks in Maine, their funding and management, and land acquisition and funding programs in Maine. I use Baxter State Park and Adirondack State Park in New York as a case study to demonstrate how a state park initiative has been used to conserve a vast tract of forest comparable to Maine’s North Woods. I draw on this analysis to examine whether a state park based conservation system could be developed in Maine to preserve the North Woods’ traditional forest uses, including public recreation, hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping as well as large scale forestry practices on private lands.



Maine State Parks

            There are 34 state parks scattered throughout Maine that are managed by the Bureau of Parks and Lands (BP&L) under the Department of Conservation (Appendix). Together these parks total roughly 64,000 acres.3  The smallest of these parks are Owl Head State Park and Damariscotta Lake, encompassing 13 and 19 acres respectively. Baxter State Park is the largest state park in Maine, encompassing approximately 200,000 additional acres and is unique in that it is managed by the Baxter State Park Authority.4  I examine Baxter State Park as a separate entity because it is independently funded, managed, and not under the jurisdiction of the Bureau.

            State parks in Maine are managed primarily for visitor enjoyment and public recreation or conservation purposes.5, 6  The Integrated Resource Policy (IRP), first drafted in 1985 and revised in 2000 is the Bureau’s guiding document for managing all lands under its jurisdiction, including state parks.6    The IRP characterizes state parks as having such characteristics as a swimming beach, picnic tables, playgrounds, watercraft access sites, and day hiking trails.6  The IRP classifies all lands under its jurisdiction in a “resource allocation system;” that determines the sensitivity of the land to development, from most sensitive and therefore those most unsuited for development to lands appropriate for moderate to heavy development (Table 1). Additionally, each classification is managed for dominant and secondary uses. The classified areas, in order of most sensitive to least, are listed as: special protection, backcountry recreation, wildlife dominant, remote recreation, visual consideration, developed recreation, and timber management.6  According to the IRP, the overwhelming majority of state parks can be classified as developed recreation areas. Even though state parks are usually listed under the less-ecologically-sensitive classification of developed recreation areas, the Bureau does have policies, dictated by the IRP, for managing lands that are more sensitive to recreation and development.

            In addition to state parks, the Bureau manages historic sites and public reserved lands. Public reserved lands are managed on a multiple-use system, as dictated by the IRP, for uses ranging from recreation to timber harvesting. While use of these lands for recreation is encouraged, visitors should be prepared for a rugged, remote, backcountry experience.7  Management and recreational use of these lands is funded by revenues gained from timber management. Generally there is neither an entrance fee nor staff available to users. The Bureau manages over 29 Public Reserve Units that encompass approximately 400,000 acres (Appendix).3  A map of all state conservation lands and more specifically all lands owned by the can be seen in figure 1.


Figure 23. State owned conservation lands and areas managed by the Bureau of Parks and Lands8


Table 12. Land classifications of areas managed by the Bureau of Parks and Lands under the Integrated Resource

Land Classification


Basic Management Guidelines

Special Protection Areas

Areas allocated for the protection of values associated with unusual, important, representative, and native vegetation or wildlife habitat; geological formations or historic/cultural areas

Special protection areas cannot accommodate active manipulation or intensive use of resources

Backcountry Recreation Areas

Areas allocated for dominant recreation use for the values associated with scenic quality, remoteness, wild and pristine character, and capacity to impart a sense of solitude

Allow trails and primitive campsites for dispersed recreation and hunting, fishing, and trapping where they do not adversely impact the safety of other users

Remote Recreation Areas

Areas allocated to protect natural/scenic values as well as recreation, generally smaller than backcountry areas

Allow significant opportunities for low-intensity, dispersed, non-motorized recreation; multi-aged management of timber is allowed

Wildlife Dominant Areas

Areas allocated to protect values associated with essential, significant, and specialized wildlife habitat areas

Manage habitat for wildlife to enhance populations, also recreation and timber are allowed where they will not have a negative impact on wildlife habitats

Visual Consideration Areas

Areas that have natural settings in which visual attributes enhance the enjoyment for recreational users

Maintain visual aesthetic of area by limiting management activities in area

Developed Recreation Areas

Areas that typically have intensely developed recreation facilities, including campgrounds, parking lots, and modern sanitary facilities

Recreation is primary concern, secondary usages include wildlife management and visual considerations

Timber Management Areas


Will be managed primarily for timber under the Bureau's timber management policies and also wildlife management and dispersed recreation


            Baxter State Park is an anomaly among Maine state parks. The park’s mission is not only the visitor recreation experience but also the preservation of the natural integrity of the land. The Baxter State Park Authority manages the park and it is their duty to ensure that the park, “shall forever be kept and remain in the Natural Wild State.”4  Whereas parks managed by the Bureau are managed primarily for recreation, and whereas public reserved lands are managed primarily for conservation of resources with recreation limited to the more adventurous, Baxter State Park does both. It has the wildness of public reserved lands alongside the infrastructure of state parks. Baxter State Park’s unique history and mission, a product of its donor, Governor Percival Baxter, has allowed it to fill such a valuable niche in conservation areas. The park’s ability to balance recreation with preservation is important as a model in the conservation of Maine’s North Woods. This balance of recreation and conservation in Baxter State Park bridges the gap in management policies between state parks and public reserved lands.


Funding and Land Acquisitions

            State parks in Maine have been acquired by government purchase and by philanthropic donations from private citizens. Government land acquisitions have used both federal and state funding programs in purchasing lands for state parks, including the Land and Water Conservation Fund, United States Forest Service Forest Legacy Program and the Land for Maine’s Future program. On a state level the Land for Maine’s Future, under the State Planning Office, is the agency responsible for facilitating land acquisitions in Maine. It is important to note that each of these programs, while instrumental in providing funding, do not put forth proposals for land purchases, they only evaluate and fund them. The proposals for land acquisitions come from both governmental agencies such as the Bureau of Parks and Lands as well as a number of private land trusts.

            Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) was created in 1987, based on recommendations from the Special Commission on Outdoor Recreation. The program was charged with “responding to growing threats to Maine’s natural heritage and tradition.”9 Since its creation the LMF has protected over 192,000 acres through a combination of fee-title purchases and conservation easements.10  Early land acquisitions using LMF funds were retained by the state, but today many efforts are led by private land trusts. The LMFP is based on a partnership system whereby private land trusts or government agencies apply for funds to purchase lands with the understanding that they will have to match the LMF’s contribution. The minimum contribution is fifty cents to every dollar spent by the LMF, though actual contributions are often much more significant.9  (Since 2000 partner groups have contributed $2.40 for every dollar spent by the LMF.10)  The LMF works with a diverse group of actors, and while they are a government agency, they are not limited to conserving lands only for state ownership.

            The LMF is funded by bonds issued by the legislature. In 1987 and 1999 these bonds totaled $35 million and $50 million respectively.10  The erratic nature of funding for LMF has been recognized as a limiting factor of the program’s land acquisition efforts. Appeals for a continuous funding mechanism have been made but so far unmet. Tim Glidden, director of LMF, suggested that an annual budget of $15-20 million would be an effective amount and consistent with the ambitious land acquisition program that Maine needs.11

            The call for an ambitious land acquisition program was reiterated in the 1997 Land Acquisition Priorities Advisory Committee (LAPAC) report, commissioned by Governor Angus King, to, “help chart the course for future land acquisitions initiatives in Maine.”12  The LAPAC report set three goals for the state regarding land acquisition: to increase Maine’s public and private conservation lands by 10% by the year 2000 and double conservation lands by 2020; to establish long term, state acquisition funding; and to operate land acquisition programs in a way that benefits all of Maine.12

            The report prioritized future land acquisitions in Maine, and gave the state a strategic plan in terms of what lands the state should acquire. Lands with access to water, lands in Southern Maine, ecological reserves, river systems, and undeveloped coastline were determined to be the highest priorities for Maine.12  The conspicuous omission of lands in the North Woods demonstrates that, at the time, the North Woods was not a major concern for state land acquisition despite the report’s recognition of the recreational, economic, and ecological importance of the area and the anticipated development pressures. The lack of a land acquisition program directed at the North Woods can therefore be traced back to this 1997 report.

            There are two notable federal programs that have been used to acquire conservation lands in Maine, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the US Forest Service Forest Legacy Program. Unlike LMF acquisitions however, fee title lands or easements purchased using these funds must be owned by the state.

            The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), under the National Park Service, has traditionally been the major federal fund for state land acquisition grants. (See chapter by Randa Capponi)  Since its creation in 1965 it has provided over 40,000 grants and $3.6 billion to protect over 2,600,000 acres nationwide.13  The LWCF was created to maintain a nationwide legacy of high quality recreational areas stimulate non-federal investments in the protection and maintenance of recreation resources.13 However, the importance of the LWCF has decreased as federal funds for state conservation have decreased.

Beginning with administration cuts during the Reagan administration and continuing with budget downsizing in the 1990’s, to the point that today LWCF funds are “virtually nonexistent.”14  This can be seen in the history of federal funds for the LWCF since its inception in 1965 and its high point of $369 million in 1979 to $0 from 1996-99.13  The fund has since recovered, but only minimally, and in Fiscal Year 2006 President Bush proposed $0 for the fund, that amount has since been increased to just over $28 million.13  Similarly to the LMFP, it is a partnership program requiring extensive state participation and funding. In Maine, LWCF funding reached a high in the late 1970’s when LWCF contributions were just over $2.5 million. However from 1980 through 2000 LWCF funding in Maine never exceeded $.5 million per year.15  Funding has declined steadily from 2002-2005 (Figure 2).


Figure 24. Land and Water Conservation Fund obligations in Maine, 2002-200515


            The USFS Forest Legacy Program (FLP) is another federal fund that has been used to purchase public lands in Maine and offers potential funding for conservation in the Maine North Woods. This program is dedicated to the conservation of large tracts of forest land from conversion to non-forest uses, most notably development, one of the threats to the North Woods. The FLP seeks to preserve working forests and other, “traditional forest uses” including: public access, timber, hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, camping, skiing, and boating. Since 1993 the FLP funds have conserved a total of 59,465 acres in Maine with a total expenditure of $9.7 million.15

            Before proposals are received by the USFS FLP they must be submitted to the Maine FLP, which prioritizes proposals and submits those most worthy to the USFS FLP. Prioritization is based on a number of criteria. The most important are: the threat of conversion to non-forest uses, threatening traditional usages and also that 50% of the forest must be used for commercial timber.2  These criteria demonstrate the commitment to the multi-use approach embraced by the Maine FLP program. On a federal level proposals are evaluated based on four key components: 1. Importance, the “public benefits gained from protection and management of the property” 2. Threat of conversion to non-forest uses 3. Strategic importance and 4. Readiness.16  One of the major concerns about the future of the North Woods is its continued use as commercial timberland. The FLP provides one way through which forests can be preserved for both recreation and forestry.

            There is a strong link between the specific funding program and the type of land management practices pursued on acquired lands. Lands acquired with federal Land and Water Conservation funds are generally managed for recreational purposes, while lands acquired using Forest Legacy funds are maintained to promote traditional forest uses, namely forestry. In Maine, these lands would tend to be managed as state parks and public reserve lands, respectively, each by the Bureau of Parks and Lands, but within different land classifications and subject to different management policies. Funds from the Land for Maine’s Future, unlike the two federal funding programs, are used to purchase lands for a variety of uses ranging from recreation to more traditional forest uses. Also, since Land for Maine’s Future works with private actors, such as land trusts, land management policies after acquisition may be case specific, catering to conservation ideals of the individual partnership organization.

            Similarly to many government agencies and organizations dedicated to land use management, the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands is under funded. While the general fund does provide some money for park management, the Bureau is forced to seek outside funding. One mechanism that has helped Maine state parks avoid a major financial deficit is private trust funds. State parks that are the result of private donations often also have private trusts to fund their management. Baxter State Park is an example of such a park. While effective, this funding mechanism is not an institutionally sound way to ensure funding for state parks; it is too case specific, and relies too heavily on private interests. In order that all state parks receive the best possible management the government must find additional sources of funding or allocate more money from the general fund to state parks. Management costs of Public Reserved Lands have a twofold advantage over state parks. First, less funding is necessary since there are fewer to no staff and/or facilities, and second, “funds generated from careful timber management cover the cost of managing recreational use.”7  The result is that public reserved lands are more self-sufficient economically and do not require the amount government financial resources needed by state parks.


Adirondack State Park

Adirondack State Park (ASP) in New York is an excellent example of a state park based conservation effort, and provides valuable lessons for Maine’s efforts to conserve the North Woods. There are a number of similarities between the Adirondack region and Maine’s North Woods. Both northern New York and northern Maine are predominantly forested, mountainous, and contain numerous ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers. Also, population in each area is low and dispersed throughout a large geographic area.

            A unique feature of Adirondack State Park is its pattern of land ownership: it is comprised of a checkerboard of private and public lands. Of the approximately six million acres encompassed by the park, just over three million are privately owned.17  In Adirondack State Park state lands are protected as “forever wild” and any development that does take place, whether on public or private lands, is closely monitored and regulated to fit with the parks overall goal of conservation. An examination of the history, policy processes, and agencies involved in Adirondack State Park reveals the ways in which state park can be an effective management and conservation tool.

            Adirondack State Park was founded in 1892 and has gone through numerous phases of expansion. The original park was delineated by a “blue line” within which the state was to focus its land acquisitions. This original boundary encompassed 2,807,760 acres only 551,093 of which were state owned and therefore officially part of the park.18  It wasn’t until 1912 that the state realized it would never be able to accomplish its goal of obtaining all of the private lands within the blue line and therefore it classified all lands, public and private, within the blue line as part of the state park. Major expansions in Adirondack State Park occurred in 1912, 1931, 1956, and 1972.18


Figure 25. Adirondack Park Forest Preserve Lands 1892 and 200219


            State owned forest preserve lands, which currently make up 98% of state owned lands in the park, experienced a surge in recreational use in the early 20th century. This spurred an increase in the development of facilities by the Department of Environmental Conservation in order to accommodate visitors.18  The trend of increasing visitation and development continued into the 1960's which drew attention to the fact that both public and private lands within the park were under intense pressure for development and that no land use regulations were in place.

            In 1968, a temporary commission was appointed by the governor to assess the status of the park and the future outlook for both public and private land holdings. The commission recommended the creation of an Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to regulate land use, to create a comprehensive plan for the area, and to regulate land use practices on public and private lands. In 1971 the APA was created by the Adirondack Park Agency Act, and was given a mandate to create a master plan for public lands, as well as create a land use and development plan for the privately owned lands within the park.

            The goal of the Adirondack Park Agency Act is to, “insure optimum overall conservation, protection, preservation, development and use of the unique scenic, aesthetic, wildlife, recreational, open space, historic, ecological and natural resources of the Adirondack Park.”20  A year after the Adirondack Park Agency Act passed the Private Land Use and Development Plan was submitted to the state. There was strong opposition from private land owners to the proposed power of the APA to regulate private lands within the park. In an effort to appease opposition a local government board was created to review, advise, and assist the Adirondack Park Agency. Also, there was an increase in funds for local planning. The role of the local review board is to monitor the administration and enforcement of the land use and development plan and report recommendations to the governor and legislature. This ensures a level of local participation in the policy process that allows local voices to be heard and acted upon when dealing with land use management policies.

            The 1973 amendment to the 1971 Adirondack Park Agency Act gave the Agency the ability to regulate land uses on private land. This legislation was groundbreaking in that it delegated the authority to manage private lands to a governmental agency. It provided a concrete mechanism through which the state could exercise the power to ensure that private lands within the park were managed with the overarching concern of conservation in mind. From the perspective of private landowners, the Act was an attack on private property rights, but from a conservationist view it was a monumental piece of legislation.

            The goal of the Land Use Development Plan is to channel future growth around existing communities, where basic infrastructure such as roads, utilities, and services exist.21  To do so the plan classifies all lands within the park into different categories . The plan classifies state and private lands within the park into different categories of use. Private lands are grouped into six categories: hamlet, moderate intensity, low intensity, rural use, industrial use, and resource management (Table 2). Specific limitations on development are assigned to each category. Current policy requires that any private landowner wishing to develop his or her lands must submit a plan to the APA. The agency reviews the proposed development and either accepts or rejects it. State owned lands are classified into nine categories: wilderness, primitive, canoe, wild forest, intensive use, historic, state administrative, wild, scenic, and recreational rivers, and travel corridors (Table 3). Each classification has a set of rules designating acceptable forms of development.


Table 13. Private land classifications and acreages in Adirondack State Park22, 23

Private Land Classification



Basic Management Guidelines



Varied communities that contain a sizeable permanent, seasonal and transient populations, with a  high level of public services and facilities

Hamlet areas will serve as the service and growth centers in the park and are intended to accommodate a large portion of the necessary and natural expansion of the park's housing, commercial and industrial activities

Moderate Intensity Area


Areas where the capability of natural resources and the anticipated need for future development indicate relatively intense development, primarily residential, is suitable and desirable

To provide for development opportunities in areas where development will not significantly harm the relatively tolerant physical and biological resources

Low Intensity Area


Readily accessible areas, within reasonable proximity to hamlet areas where physical and biological resources are fairly tolerant and withstand development at a slightly lower level than hamlet and moderate intensity areas

To provide for development opportunities for residential housing for park residents and also seasonal home market

Rural Use Area


Areas where natural resource limitations and public considerations necessitate stringent development restraints, characterized by shallow soils, severe slopes, significant ecotones, critical wildlife habitats and proximity to key public lands

To provide for and encourage rural land uses consistent with the relatively low tolerance of the areas' natural resources and to prevent strip development along major travel corridors, development should be residential and occur in small clusters on carefully selected sites

Resource Management Area


Lands where the need to protect, manage, and enhance forest, agricultural, recreational, and open space resources is of paramount importance because of overriding natural resource and public considerations

To protect the delicate physical and biological resources, and encourage economic management of the forest, agricultural, and recreational resources essential to the character of the park

Industrial Use Area


Areas substantial in size where land uses are predominantly of an industrial or mineral extraction nature and have potential for new industrial development

To encourage the continued operation of existing industrial and extraction uses important to the economy of the Adirondack Park region


Table 14. Public land classifications in Adirondack State Park22, 23

Public Land Classification



Basic Management guidelines



An area of state land or water having a primeval character without significant improvement or human habitation

To achieve and perpetuate a natural plant and animal community where man's influence is not apparent



An area where the watercourses or the number and proximity of lakes and ponds make possible a remote and unconfined type of water-oriented recreation in an essentially wilderness setting

To protect the quality of water and fishery resources while preserving a wilderness character on the adjacent lands



Essentially wilderness in character but contains structures or uses inconsistent with wilderness or is contiguous to private lands that are of size and influence to prevent wilderness designation

To achieve and maintain as close to wilderness as possible

Wild Forest


An area where the resources permit a higher degree of human use than in wilderness, primitive, or canoe areas while retaining an essentially wild character

To protect the natural wild forest setting and to provide those types of outdoor recreation that will afford public enjoyment without impairing the wild forest atmosphere

Intensive Use


An area where the state provides facilities for intensive forms of outdoor recreation by the public

To provide the public opportunities for recreation that are in harmony with the relatively wild character of the park



Locations of buildings/structures that are significant in the history or culture of the Adirondack Park, the state, or the nation

To preserve the quality and character of the historic resources

State Admin.


Areas where the state provides facilities for a variety of purposes that are not primarily designed to accommodate visitors to the park

To provide facilities for the administration of state lands or programs

Wild, Scenic, and Rec. Rivers


A river or section of river that is free of diversions and impoundments, with a river area primitive in nature and free of any man-made development

No river or river area will be managed or used in a way that would be less restrictive in nature than the requirements of the Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers Act

Travel Corridors


A strip of land constituting a roadbed and right-of-way for state and interstate highways in the pakr

To achieve a park-like atmosphere on state lands within the travel corridor that complements the total Adirondack Environment


            The Adirondack Park Agency Act and the Master Plan created by the APA recognize the unique pattern of land ownership within the park and attempt to forge policies that are equitable to private land owners. The Plan recognizes the economic importance of private lands and their timber and mining operations, which are vital to the economic well being of the park territory. The Master Plan for the APA also prioritizes land acquisitions to be pursued by the agency. Land acquisitions are focused on large, contiguous tracts of forested land, with emphasis on lands that will connect existing state lands as well as tracts of land with unique features, such as higher elevations, native plant species, or specific ecological, scenic, or geological interest.23  The Master plan further recognizes the importance of the forest products industry in the Adirondacks and recommends against acquiring highly productive timber lands, although conservation easements that allow sustainably managed timber lands are encouraged.

            Adirondack State Park is funded primarily through the New York’s general fund, with limited additional funding coming from the federal special revenues fund (Table 4).


Table 15. Adirondack Park Agency funding, 2002-200524






2004-05 (recommended)

New York General Fund






Federal Special Revenues Fund













            Additionally, from 2002-2005, $50,000 was allocated annually to the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board.



            Adirondack State Park provides a model for what is achievable in Maine through a focused state initiative. The major lesson to be learned from the Adirondack State Park model is that private and public lands can coexist with a common goal of conservation. Also, there are major benefits to streamlining the conservation process, and creating a single agency whose sole aim is the conservation of Maine’s North Woods. Currently there are a number of agencies and funding mechanisms used for land acquisitions and management in Maine’s North Woods: the Land for Maine’s Future Program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the Forest Legacy Program are all used to purchase fee-title or easement lands; there are also a number of management agencies and groups, including the Bureau of Parks and Lands, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and numerous private groups such as the Appalachian Mountain Club and Nature Conservancy. There are different land use classifications, such as state parks, public reserve lands and furthermore lands are classified as wildernesses, backcountry recreation areas, developed recreation areas etc. While the diversity of actors has allowed Maine to acquire and conserve wide range of lands, many of which are state parks, the decentralized nature of the system is not conducive to a single, large scale conservation effort as would be required in the North Woods. Therefore the creation of a single government agency whose sole purpose is the acquisition and management of lands in the North Woods is a crucial to the conservation of the region.

            The creation of an agency similar to the Adirondack Park Agency could facilitate communication between the diverse actors involved in the North Woods as well as bring resources from all groups together, utilizing the strengths of each particular group. A North Woods Agency would also focus on acquiring lands in the Maine North Woods for public uses. Similarly to the “blue-line” of the Adirondack Park a North Woods Agency in Maine could bring together financial resources from the multiple actors interested in conserving the North Woods and work systematically to acquire lands for conservation. A focused land acquisition effort in the North Woods has never been attempted, and consequently land acquisitions, while plentiful, have been dispersed across the state. One promising sign for the North Woods is the re-prioritization of the region for land acquisition, especially conservation easements. Today the North Woods is second in priority only to coastal properties in southern and coastal Maine for land acquisitions to be pursued with the 12 million dollar bond issue for the Land for Maine’s Future Program that passed in November 2005.25

            Under the guidance of a single government agency, a patchwork of public and private lands could be united in a greater conservation area. In accordance with the current Integrated Resource Policy used by the Bureau of Parks and Lands, a North Woods Agency could classify all land in the Maine North Woods in terms of acceptable land uses and manage them accordingly. The ability of the Adirondack Park Agency to manage lands within Adirondack State Park are rooted in its land classification system. That a similar classification system is already in place in Maine is a promising step in managing the North Woods.

            A Maine North Woods State Park would emulate Baxter State Park, different areas within the park could still have very different character, ranging from facilities and staff that characterize state parks to the wilderness and forestry practices that characterize public reserved lands. In addition to user entrance fees, permits for hunting and fishing could be required, providing additional sources of funding. The model exemplified by Baxter State Park should be pursued to balance a wilderness character with user friendly facilities, enabling both rugged outdoor enthusiasts in search of a backcountry experience as well as day use visitors who don’t venture more than a few miles from their car to enjoy the recreational opportunities provided by the park. Baxter State Park, while primarily funded by a private trust fund does also charge user fees (only to out-of-state citizens) that help to manage the park. Other states such as Nebraska and Indiana obtain 65% of their operating budget from user fees.26  While funding concerns are at the forefront of management concerns for state parks, and need to be considered the potential for user fees to be a major source of funding should not be underestimated.

            Commercial timber could also aid user fees in funding a state park, thereby combining practices currently employed by state parks and public reserve lands. A great advantage of having a park encompass working forests would be that revenue generated from such forests would be a source of revenue for managing recreation opportunities. However stronger government funding would also be required. The success of the Adirondack Park has been due in part to the funding its managing agency, the APA receives. The funding comes from the state’s general fund and covers operating costs such as management and maintenance of facilities and also provides money to the local review board. While user fees and forestry revenues are important potential funding mechanisms for a state park in the North Woods, strong government funding is also essential.

            Funding for land acquisitions to create a state park would come from existing programs, both state and federal, since programs such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Forest Legacy Program would each be applicable to the diverse land uses encompassed in the area. While LWCF funding has decreased in recent years, strong environmental advocacy and a change of administrations could change that and Maine needs to be poised to take advantage of federal funding mechanisms when and if they increase. Another promising sign is the bond that passed for the Land for Maine’s Future Program in 2005. The bond, which passed 66%-34%, demonstrates that Maine citizens realize that conserving land for public access and recreation is crucial to Maine’s future. Although the 12 million dollar bond is a far cry from the 50 million dollars that was originally proposed it demonstrates strong political leadership goals of conservation and acquisition of public lands. Strong political leadership will be crucial to a state based conservation effort to conserve the North Woods.

            The greatest potential conflict would come from timber companies with a strong economic interest in the area. Furthermore, outlining a region that prioritizes land acquisitions for the state may cause landowners in the North Woods to feel targeted. However, involving landowners in a review board, similar to the Adirondack Review Board, or within the North Woods Agency itself, the state could foster a relationship between landowners that would promote the interests of all parties. A North Woods Agency would benefit landowners by providing technical expertise and facilitating natural resource inventory to give landowners a better understanding of their lands and how to manage them, whether for timber or recreation. An example of a potential agreement between the state and private landowners is that in exchange for allowing public recreation on their lands and harvesting timber sustainably, the state would give a portion of user fee revenues to private landowners, thereby increasing their incentive to provide public access while still maintaining a working forest.

            A Maine Woods State Park would have numerous advantages over a Maine Woods National Park. Beginning with land acquisition, a national park would require a massive mobilization of federal funds for the outright purchase of the land, and would not take advantage of the numerous groups dedicated to conserving Maine’s North Woods. Also, whereas a state park based initiative could incorporate conservation easements and public-private agreements about access on privately owned lands a national park would preclude such possibilities. Additionally the loss of local control over land and acceptable land uses would likely spur great resentment and protest from many citizens. One key to conservation in the Maine North Woods will be the preservation of local control and input, a top-down federal government initiated conservation effort is likely to be seen as authoritarian and therefore more likely to be unsuccessful unless it involves local communities and landowners. A decentralized system based on a patchwork of private and public lands, with different land classifications and acceptable lands uses, as in Adirondack State Park is more likely to succeed. Also, a state park based conservation effort will provide more incentive to stakeholders in Maine to take initiative and create and provide for recreational opportunities if they know they will be the primary financial beneficiaries, whereas in a National Park revenues would go to the Federal government, and local groups would not be stakeholders in the park and have little incentive to become involved.



            Creating and fostering relationships between public and private lands and landowners is essential to a conservation effort in Maine’s North Woods. There do not need to be heavy handed regulation mechanisms over private lands, such as those exercised by the Adirondack Park Agency if conservation and timber are allowed to co-exist and private landowners are allowed to benefit from public recreation on their lands. As in the Adirondacks, acquiring the entirety of the North Woods is an insurmountable task, yet by using a variety of conservation tools from easements to informal and formal partnerships with landowners to fee-title ownership and user fees for recreation, Maine can protect the North Woods from development, and maintain the character of the North Woods as both a haven for recreation as well as a working forest. An innovative state park initiative that incorporates lessons from Adirondack State Park, as well as from Baxter State Park could accomplish such a feat and conserve the Maine North Woods for future generations.




Table 16. Maine state parks managed by the Bureau of Parks and Lands acreage statistics3


Table 17. Public Reserved Lands Acreage Statistics3

State Parks



Public Reserved Lands


Allagash Wilderness Waterway



Bald Mountain





Bigelow Preserve


Birch Point



Chain of Ponds


Bradbury Mountain



Chamberlain Lake


Camden Hills



Cutler Coast


Cobscook Bay



Dead River


Crescent Beach





Damariscotta Lake



Dodge Point


Ferry Beach



Donnel Pond


Fort Point (Pownal)



Duck Lake


Grafton Notch



Eagle Lake


Holbrook Island Sanctuary



Four Ponds


Lake St. George



Gero Island





Great Heath


Lily Bay





Moose Point



Little Moose


Mt. Blue



Mackworth Island


Owls Head





Peacock Beach



Moosehead Lake







Penobscot River Corridor





Popham Beach





Quoddy Head



Rocky Lake


Range Ponds



Round Pond


Rangeley Lake



Scraggly Lake







Roque Bluffs





Sebago Lake





Shackford Head





Swan Lake



Total Acreage


Two Lights





Vaughan Woods





Warren Island





Wolfe's Neck Woods





Total Acreage






Literature Cited


1RESTORE, "Maine Woods Proposed Park and Reserve", (Hallowell, 2004).

2Maine Forest Legacy Committee, "Modified Assessment of Need", in Department of Conservation, ed.2004).

3Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, "Outdoors in Maine", in Department of Conservation, ed.2005-06).

4Baxter State Park Authority, "Welcome to Baxter State Park",

 5Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, "State Parks", in.

6Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, "Integrated Resoure Policy: For Public Reserved and Nonreserved Lands, State Parks, and State Historic Sites", in Maine Department of, ed.2000).

7Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, "Public Reserved Lands", in 2004).

8Maine Office of GIS, "Conservation land ownership boundaries", in 2005).

9Land for Maine's Future Program, "Increasing the Return on a Sound Public Investment", in State Planning Office, ed.2004).

10State Planning Office, "Land for Maine's Future",

11Tim Glidden, "Personal communication", in S. Shahverdian, ed.

12Land Acquisition Priorities Advisory Committee, "Final Report and Recommendations of the Land Acquisition Priorities Advisory Committee", in M. S. P. Office, ed.1997).

13National Park Service, "Land and Water Conservation Fund",

14William Lowry, "The Impact of Reinventing Government on State and Federal Parks", Journal of Policy History 13 (2001).

15Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, "Maine State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan", in Maine Department of Conservation, ed.2003).

16United States Forest Service Forest Legacy Program, "Project Scoring Guidance".

17Adirondack Park Agency, "Acreage by County and Land Use Classification", in 2003).

18Charles I. Zisner, The Economic Impact of the Adirondack Park Private Land Use and Development Plan (Albany, 1980).

19Adirondack Park Agency, "New York Adirondack Park Forest Preserve Lands 1892-2002",

20 "Adirondack Park Act", in 1971).

21Adirondack Park Agency, "Adirondack Park Agency", in 2003).

22Adirondack Park Agency, "Acreage by County and Land Use Classification", in 2003).

23Adirondack Park Agency, "Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan", in Department of Environmental Conservation, ed.2001).

24New York State, "Adirondack Park Agency Budget", in.

25Governor Baldacci, "Governor signs bond authorization, an Important Investment in Maine's Future",

26Holly L. Fretwell, "State Parks: Untapped Natural Wealth", in 2003).





State of Maine's Environment, Colby College, Environmental Studies Program
Content by Students in ES493: Environmental Policy Practicum
Philip Nyhus, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies
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