Continuing Land Sales in Maine's North Woods Lead to Conservation, Fragmentation

By Phyllis Austin, Maine Environmental News ( 6/9/04

Mt. Katahdin from Daicey Pond. Photo by Bill Dickhans.

Roxanne Quimby's new purchase of 9,894 acres east of Baxter State Park has started off the first half of 2004 as another significant year of conservation acquisitions in Maine's North Woods – and of forest fragmentation.

Quimby paid $4 million on March 3 for the tract in Township 3 Range 7 that previously was owned by Hancock Timber Resources. Hancock is divesting itself of its Maine and New Hampshire lands.

Besides Quimby, Hancock has also sold large parcels this year to Linkletter Timberlands LLC of Athens and Ames Logging of Milllinocket. Linkletter paid $1.056 million for 5,103 acres in Township 1 Range 7 NWP on January 22. Silas Ames Sr. and sons purchased 6,035 acres in Township 3 Range 9 for $1.903,000 on January 24.

In the offing is the sale of 61,689 acres in the Upper St. John watershed near the Quebec border. The St. Aurelie Timberlands tract was formerly part of International Paper Company’s (IP) holdings. IP sold it to Daishowa Forest Products in the late 1980s, and the land eventually ended up in the hands of the now-bankrupt energy giant Enron Corp.

In March, a Connecticut investor group called White Birch Paper Ltd. acquired the 61,689 acres, along with mills and land in Quebec, from Enron. LandVest will market the Maine property, and the state and syrup producers are likely to be interested buyers. A price for the land hasn’t been announced yet.

LandVest has under purchase agreement 3,045 acres called "Wild Brook" around the western mountain town of Bethel.

LandVest has under purchase agreement 3,045 acres called "Wild Brook" around the western mountain town of Bethel. The land, part of the Chadbourne family ownership, is listed at $2,350,000.

The new Quimby parcel, called Three Rivers Preserve, contains most of the northern third of T3R7. It was of interest to her because it includes land on both sides of the East Branch of the Penobscot River and the Sebois River. Wassataquoik Stream cuts through the southwest corner of the property. Three Rivers' southern border abuts the state's 2,340-acre public reserved unit on the Wassataquoik, one of the wildest undimmed streams in the state.

"The rationale for the purchase was that it is another piece of the East Branch lands and is in the general area of other conservation lands," said Quimby. Besides the riverfront, the 9,894 acres includes 1,950-foot Deasey Mountain (also spelled Daicey), site of a former state forestry fire tower. "My intentions for the property are conservation and non-motorized recreation," she said.

The river frontage on the property totals about 12 miles -- with 6.4 miles of it on the East Branch. Bald eagles and osprey are common visitors to the area. The Sebois frontage is four miles, and the Wassataquoik, two-plus miles. The first in T3R7 is a mix of species, with an average volume of about 18 cords per commercial acre. Promotional material from Land Vest, the real estate company that handled the Hancock sale, said that "great stands of timber on the slopes of Deasey Mountain have remained nearly untouched for a half a century." There are also about 30 acres of flood plain forest at the confluence of the Seboeis and Penobscot rivers.

Several primitive campsites are on the banks of the East Branch. Mt. Katahdin lies a few miles west of the Quimby property. Scenic views of the majestic mountain in Baxter Park can be enjoyed from several vantage points along the river.

Several primitive campsites are on the banks of the East Branch. Mt. Katahdin lies a few miles west of the Quimby property.
Photo: David Martin

Quimby now has just over 50,000 acres in a land trust to be held for a potential national park, or, if that doesn't happen, to be protected as wilderness-like reserves. She is currently considering the purchase of another tract in Elliotsville Plantation and will continue to evaluate opportunities to buy land to protect it in perpetuity.

Quimby's efforts build on significant land she purchased in 2003 for conservation. The highest profile piece she acquired was 24,083 acres -- all of T5R8 -- on the eastern border of Baxter Park. The purchase, from Irving's Aroostook Timberlands, was $12,041,500 and closed on Nov. 24, 2003.

The state continued to purchase former commercial timberlands and water frontage and to buy conservation easements to protect in perpetuity. Landmark deals are likely to be struck in 2004 as well.

Land sales in the unorganized territory – 10.5 million acres of Maine – are recorded in county offices. Copies of the transactions are sent to the state property tax office in Augusta, where the documents are available to the public.

Besides the Quimby purchase, there were other major sales in the north woods in 2003 – some that made headlines and others that didn’t. Timber liquidators, such as H. C. Haynes, continued to buy significant portions of the divested lands.

IP’s "Katahdin Forest" was sold to the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC). The 36,691-acre tract for $14.2 million passed hands on December 3. The land sweeps across T7R9, T7R7 and T8R10 in the Hundred Mile Wilderness/Katahdin Iron Works area. AMC will use the property to carry out habitat protection, recreation, education and sustainable forestry. It was the largest single investment ever in the club's long history.

Several months earlier, AMC bought Little Lyford Pond Camps close to the Appalachian Trail and Gulf Hagas, a protected natural gorge and popular hiking and camping area. AMC paid Bob and Arlene LeRoy $100,000 for the sporting camp business and the historic log buildings that include nine cabins, a dining hall, lodge and other structures. Previously, the Leroys had purchased their personal residence and 300 acres from International Paper (IP), and they also sold that to AMC for $395,643.

AMC also bought Little Lyford Pond Camps close to the Appalachian Trail and Gulf Hagas.

On April 25, 2003, IP sold the Leroys an old camp and 17 acres on Mountain Brook Stream, a couple of miles from the sporting camp, for $49,000. Several days later, the Leroys completed the purchase of another 100 feet on the stream for $5,643.

Bob Leroy, who is continuing to manage Little Lyford Pond Camps, said the deal with AMC was "very good for me. It was the best thing that could have happened for this valley because we had heard rumors that IP was thinking about parceling up the land if AMC hadn't come along," he said. AMC will set aside 10,000 acres of the property close to the camps as a no-cut reserve. Huber Resources will oversee a timber-cutting program elsewhere on the property.

Leroy was glad that "AMC brought money to the table" to carry out repairs on the camps that he hadn't been able to do yet. Winter users flocked to the camps, he said. "We had twice as many people as Arlene and I ever saw." The rates didn't go up from what the Leroys charged, he said. "AMC doesn't want to price anyone out." Leroy thinks AMC will operate in the red for a couple of years.

The Leroys tore down the camp on their new land and built a timber frame house. Arlene Leroy is not working at Little Lyford camps; rather, she is tending the goats and chickens at home, he said. The camp llamas were given a home at Maple Hill Farm in Hallowell.

Just after IP sold the Little Lyford Pond Camps to AMC, it struck a deal with Richard Rismersa for the old sporting camp property on Big Houston Pond. Rismersa paid $125,000 on May 27 for the buildings and 11.5 acres in T7R9, NWP. The camps have not been commercially operated for some time.

Endless Energy wind entrepreneur Harley Lee bought a small but significant 486 acres on the top of Black Nubble Mt. in T1R12 WBKP for his proposed energy development.

Endless Energy wind entrepreneur Harley Lee bought a small but significant 486 acres on the top of Black Nubble Mt. in T1R12 WBKP for his proposed energy development. He purchased the parcel and a right-of-way from Dallas Company for $186,723. He had bought another 516 acres in 1998 on next-door Redington Mt. for $108,650, also from the same owner.

Lee didn't have an estimate of when his wind permit proposal will be submitted for review by the state's Land Use Regulation Commission. At the moment, he said he is looking for a project investor and trying to work out a collaborative process for all interested parties to avoid a battle before state regulators.

The Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC), the AMC and the Maine A.T. Club are on record opposing the planned wind farm. The development would involve erecting 29 to 39 windmills from 200 to 260-feet tall, according to the website of Endless Energy. The ATC board said the windmills would "radically" change the area's scenic nature, damage plant and animal habitats and hurt future chances to conserve land in the western mountains. Lee is hopeful of a "win-win" solution to pertinent issues.

There were a dozen other sales of large timberland tracts in 2003. Mead/Westvaco found a quick buyer of its 519,000 acres in Maine -- an unidentified investment group. Bayroot LLC is the new owner, with Wagner Forest Management as its agent.

According to tax transfer documents, Bayroot paid $26,428,000 for land in Lexington Township, $41,877,500 for parcels in nine townships, $20,674,048 for Little W Township, $34,646,500 for tracts in seven western townships and the townships of Madrid, Salem and Freeman, and $4,898,000 for land in Herseytown and T2R5 WELS. All of the transactions closed on Dec. 2.

Wagner will be re-selling some of the Mead lands for the Bayroot investors to recoup some of the purchase costs. About 125,000 acres of woodlots may be available soon to interested parties.

Irving Woodlands' entity, Aroostook Timberlands, sold the company's East Branch lands. In addition to selling to Roxanne Quimby, Irving sold 24,000 acres to Gardner Land Co. in T3R8 and T4R8 for $25 million -- a high price reflecting the unusual resource values of the area.

H. C. Haynes bought part of T3R8. The records show that on November 6, Aroostook Timberlands sold 22,870 acres in T3R8 to Lakeville Shores, the development arm of Haynes' operations, for $4,661,400.

Hancock entity Great Eastern Timber sold 30,000 acres to Carrier Timberlands for $12,212,888 on August 7 in T7R10 NWP, TBR11 and Blanchard Township. Stead Timberlands of Kingman bought another 6,271 acres from Hancock for $2,305,143 on July 18.

The Donald Breen family sold Saddleback Mountain for $7.5 million to Saddle Land and Timber Corp. of Farmington.

The Donald Breen family sold Saddleback Mountain for $7.5 million to Saddle Land and Timber Corp. of Farmington -- a company owned by the Archie "Bill" Berry family. The Berrys acquired 8,087 acres in Dallas Plantation and Sunday River and Redington townships. They are expanding and modernizing the ski operation and plan to build more condominiums.

Lesnaya Komanda LLC, an investor group connected to Wagner Forest Management, sold numerous parcels of the former United Timberlands holdings in 10 organized towns to Tom and Scott Dillon for $1,419,448 on April 29. There was no information on the number of acres, according to the property tax division, and Wagner spokesman Tom Colgan didn’t have the data readily at hand.

Plum Creek Timber and Merriweather LLC, another investor group represented by Wagner, sold off waterfront lots on Ragged and Seboomook lakes, respectively. Merriweather (the Yale University Foundation entity), sold 20 lots in Little W Township to camp leasees for $41,859 to $186,000 each, depending on the size of parcel.

Twenty-six camp lots on Seboomook in Seboomook Township went for $23,250 to $168,300 each. In both cases, most of the purchasers were Mainers.

Plum Creek made a dozen sales of subdivision lots on First Roach Pond in Kokadjo, ranging from $60,000 to $215,000 each. The company has received approval from the Land Use Regulation Commission to proceed with more sales.

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