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Group calls for tripling protected wildland in New England by 2060

FILE- In the Aug. 9, 2017 file photo, the East Branch of the Penobscot River flows over Pond Pitch in the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, in northern Maine. The 87,500-acre property in Maine consists of mountains, streams and ponds next to Baxter State Park, home of Mount Katahdin, the state's tallest mountain. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is reiterating his support for a "made in Maine" solution that keeps intact the boundaries of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP
FILE- In the Aug. 9, 2017 file photo, the East Branch of the Penobscot River flows over Pond Pitch in the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, in northern Maine. The 87,500-acre property in Maine consists of mountains, streams and ponds next to Baxter State Park, home of Mount Katahdin, the state's tallest mountain. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is reiterating his support for a "made in Maine" solution that keeps intact the boundaries of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

More than 700,000 acres of Maine are designated "forever wild" — but a new report is calling for efforts to triple that number by 2060.

The report from a group called Wildlands, Woodlands, Farmlands & Communities Initiative, is calling for at least 10% of New England be preserved as "wildlands" by 2060. That means development would be permanently off-limits there, with minimal human involvement or manipulation.

The group's David Foster said such protection would preserve wildlife and help mitigate climate change.

"As wild forests, they store abundant carbon and mitigate climate change. And in fact, many studies have shown that simply leaving forests alone is the greatest way to maximize the rate and the total amount of carbon being stored on the landscape," Foster said.

Less than 4% of Maine is currently considered to be wildland, but the group says that areas such as Baxter State Park illustrate the importance of protecting public lands.

More than 80% of New England is forested, but only about 4% of that forest is fully protected from development.

The New England News Collaborative contributed reporting for this story.