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Nicatous Lake Conservation Easement

In 1997, Robbins Lumber Company began working with the state of Maine to conserve an entire township that they had recently acquired to manage for forest products. According to Jim Robbins, "When we first bought the Nicatous land we believed we'd be forced to sell the shoreline for development. But one day we got out on the lake in a boat. Just ahead of us three bald eagles were sitting in a tree and we could hear loons calling. I said to my brother, 'We have to find another way.'" In 2000, through a combination of a working forest easement and the state acquisition of key shoreline areas, the ecological, recreational, and economic values of over 20,000 acres surrounding Nicatous Lake in eastern Maine were protected in perpetuity.

The centerpiece of this property is 5,100-acre Nicatous Lake, widely considered to be one of Maine's most beautiful water bodies with its pristine sand beaches, intricate coves and 98 islands. It lies along an historic Penobscot River Indian canoe trail (now the Eastern Maine Canoe Trail) and is the hub for paddling routes down the Union, Narraguagus and West Machias rivers.

Nicatous is one of the top five loon-nesting lakes in Maine, and has three bald eagle nesting sites. There are six deer-wintering areas in the area and ample range for species such a bobcat and black bear. Nearby West Lake supports trophy-sized land-locked salmon that grow up to 7 pounds.

The innovative plan to protect this ecological and recreational haven began when Robbins Lumber expressed interest in keeping its land undeveloped. By purchasing an easement on the Robbins land and additional acreage owned by International Paper, the State helped to foster sustainable forest management while extinguishing all development rights on the land, protecting shoreline buffers, and conserving wildlife habitat and opportunities for traditional recreation. In addition to the easement, the State acquired 76 of the 98 islands in Nicatous Lake and a 243-acre parcel connecting the 25,200-acre Duck Lake Public Reserve Unit to Nicatous Lake.

The success of this project depended on a strong partnership in which Maine Coast Heritage Trust, The Forest Society of Maine and The Trust for Public Land pooled their skills and resources to assist the former landowners and the Bureau of Parks and Lands in negotiations and fundraising. A generous grant from the Land for Maine's Future Program helped Maine's Congressional Delegation secure $3 million from the federal Forest Legacy Program which protects important forests from conversion to other uses.