That acreage, near the Whalesback, serves as habitat for inland waterfowl, wading birds, brook trout, endangered Atlantic salmon and other species.
In this undated photo, a swath of forest stretches north between the Middle Branch of the Union River on the left and Beaver Brook on the right in the Hancock County town of Aurora. The photo shows part of 3,200 acres of forest and wetland just east of the Whalesback along Route 9 that is being protected from development by the Frenchman Bay Conservancy. Credit: Courtesy of the Frenchman Bay Conservancy

A land conservation group in Hancock County now has easements on more than 3,000 acres in Aurora, forever protecting the mix of woods and wetlands from development.

Frenchman Bay Conservancy has acquired two abutting “forever wild” easements on the land, which will help preserve large undeveloped landscapes along the northern reaches of the Union River and its major tributaries. The Union River flows south from northern Hancock County, feeding into and past Graham Lake, through downtown Ellsworth into Blue Hill Bay.

The land, just east of a natural glacial landmark known as the Whalesback, is in Aurora in northern Hancock County along Route 9. The 3,223 acres include a portion of the headwaters of the Union River and serves as habitat for inland waterfowl, wading birds, brook trout, endangered Atlantic salmon and other species.

“Whalesback is a biodiversity hotspot that is large enough and close enough to other large conserved properties, such as the nearby Amherst Mountain Community Forest, that the property will act as a core refuge for species moving across the landscape in response to climate change,” said Aaron Dority, the conservancy’s executive director. “By protecting uninterrupted landscapes, we’re creating wildlife corridors that protect Maine’s iconic species and the ecosystems that build Hancock County’s resilience to climate change.”

The Amherst Mountain Community Forest is a 5,000-acre tract of state-owned forest to the west in the neighboring town of Amherst that stretches from Route 9 north to Bald Bluff Mountain.

Northeast Wilderness Trust, a regional land trust based in Vermont with a focus on wilderness conservation, helped fund the Whalesback conservation project as part of its Wildlands Partnership initiative. The trust will co-hold the forever-wild conservation easements on the Whalesback property.

The individual landowners of the protected properties will enroll them in the trust’s Wildlands Carbon program, which generates revenue for the landowners from the sale of carbon offset credits from lands recently protected as forever wild, conservancy officials said. The carbon credits, which are sold on the market, promise buyers that a property is sequestering and storing carbon that would otherwise contribute to global warming.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....