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Environmental Groups Conserve More than 4000 Acres of the Wild, Penobscot River East Branch

Several conservation groups have completed a deal to protect more than 4,300 acres just north of Millinocket off Route 11 in the Katahdin region. The deal will conserve nearly nine miles of the East Branch of the Penobscot River and improve access for recreation.

Made possible by the Butler Conservation Fund, the Open Space Institute and the Nature Conservancy, the land was purchased from Conservation Forestry, a timberland investment firm based in New Hampshire, and from several other landowners.

The project calls for improved public access for paddling, construction of new trails for hiking, biking skiing and snowshoeing, along with campsites and a welcome center. Hunting and fishing will still be allowed on the property. Kate Dempsey of the Nature Conservancy says the idea is to get more people, especially school children from surrounding towns, to enjoy it.

“The East Branch is considered one of Maine’s best, wild canoeing rivers, she says. “It’s also ecologically vital.”

Dempsey says the river includes some of the best salmon habitat in the Penobscot watershed which should improve with conservation over time. The property is outside the area proposed for a National Monument and Dempsey says the groups, which have remained neutral on the monument designation, view it as completely separate and independent.