A view of the Dead River in Orland. The Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust purchased a 355-acre property on the west bank of the river, putting almost all of the river's shoreline into conservation. Credit: Courtesy of the Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust

ORLAND, Maine — Almost all of the Dead River’s shoreline will be protected after a recent acquisition of a nearby 355-acre property by a local conservation group.

The Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust announced Wednesday that it purchased the swath of forest and wetlands on the river in Orland and Bucksport from the Bella family. The acquisition will preserve more than a mile of shoreline and add to the trust’s 4,500-acre Wildlands preserve on the river’s opposite shore.

The new property, dubbed Dead River West, has been a priority for the trust for years and was likely the last opportunity to protect the river’s shorefront and push the Wildlands park to the other side of the river.

“We’ve been trying to concentrate on things that can expand the Wildlands,” said Jack MacBrayne, a board member with the trust. “If we hadn’t purchased it, they were going to sell it on the open market.”

That strategy ties to a conservation effort to preserve whole corridors of land in order to protect wildlife, said Andy Cutko, the director of the state Bureau of Parks and Lands. Animals thrive in contiguous open spaces, or what biologists call “unfragmented habitat.”

The Dead River connects to Alamoosook Lake, and its wetlands are home to several types of waterfowl, beavers and other wildlife.

“The property provides an important link and habitat connectivity from the Blue Hill Peninsula to the thousands of acres of conserved lands east of Bangor and further north,” Cutko said. “As development continues along Maine’s coast, it will be critical to identify and protect these important corridors for wildlife movement.”

It will be open to humans, too, and a new hiking trail through the woods of the property is in development.

The existing Wildlands property has a sprawling network of trails at its property next to the Craig Brook federal hatchery in Orland. The trust also said Wednesday that its new $2.36 million capital campaign, which will help cover the cost of the Dead River West property, will also help bolster the existing Wildlands trails.

So far the trust has raised $1.8 million, or about 77 percent of its goal.

The Dead River West property isn’t the only one parcel of land that the trust has been able to add recently. Emily Fuller Hawkins said Wednesday that the Joost family gave 25 acres on Verona Island along the eastern channel to the trust, and the nonprofit is working to get the land open to the public.

That land also abuts a large private conservation area on the island.