Generous Conservation Easement Protects 1.2 miles of Crooked River Frontage

HARRISON — Mary and John Watkins on Nov. 21 donated a conservation easement protecting 690 acres of working forestlands in Harrison, and within the Crooked River Watershed, to the Western Foothills Land Trust.

The easement, which is the largest easement ever donated to the Trust, will protect 1.2 miles of shoreline along the Crooked River, over 9,906 feet of Russell Brook (a landlocked salmon and trout fisheries resource recognized by MDIFW), and 32.6 acres of high value wetlands.

Prohibiting subdivision and protecting working forest and agricultural lands, the easement will also help to maintain forest-related jobs in western Maine.

The Watkins purchased the historic Weston Farm in 1973 and added adjoining forestlands in 2006. The protected property, which is recognized in Harrison’s Comprehensive Plan as well as in the recently completed Lake Region Greenprint, is the largest contiguous single ownership parcel in Harrison.

A recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Gulf of Maine habitat analysis identified the Watkins parcel as supporting important habitat for 36 of 91 USFWS priority trust species and provides particularly high value habitat, for 12 of those 36 species.

The Western Foothills Land Trust is an active member of the Upland Headwaters Alliance (UHA), a regional collaboration of area conservation organizations in western Maine working on landscape-scale projects. UHA’s current focus is the Crooked River Initiative, an effort to protect and conserve the forested Crooked River watershed, which amongst other natural values is the primary surface water source of Sebago Lake, Portland Water District’s reservoir.

Honoring the generosity of the Watkins’ donation and the significance of this easement towards the overall health of the Crooked River’s functions, the Portland Water District (PWD) and the Casco Bay Estuary Program are jointly contributing $9,250 towards the project’s stewardship fund. PWD is contributing $6,750 and the Habitat Protection Committee of the Casco Bay Estuary Program voted to contribute $2,500.

The Land Trust thanks the Watkins family for their generous foresight and commitment to conservation, the staff of Integrated Forest Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Gulf of Maine program for mapping assistance, as well as the board of the Portland Water District and the Casco Bay Estuary Program.

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