Excerpt from Forest View, FSM’s biannual newsletter, Spring 2015 edition
How remarkable that the Forest Society of Maine (FSM) is celebrating not one, but two milestones: our 30 year anniversary and having helped conserve a million acres! From day one, FSM’s focus has been on the woods and waters of Maine’s North Woods, the largest remaining block of forestland east of the Rocky Mountains. But FSM is also about people —people who care about the future of this incredible expanse of forest.
FSM arose in 1984 from a need, a vision, and a bold idea. The need was that of the Coburn family who after a century as landowners faced the sale of their forestlands. They wanted the mountains, forests, hiking and canoe trails, and ecological gems around Attean Pond to be maintained into the future. The vision was that productively managed forests and conservation could go hand-in-hand, sustaining ecological, economic, recreational, scenic, and cultural values. The bold idea was creating an organization with the unique mission of conserving those many values. With the help of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire’s Forests, FSM was established to hold 20,000 acres of forests, mountains, rivers, and lakes. The Attean project included what was then the largest conservation easement ever undertaken and one of the first to conserve forests for habitat, timber, scenic vistas, and public recreation.
By 1994 a century of relative stability in ownership and management of Maine’s North Woods began to change. Leaders at Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Maine Tree Foundation, and Trust for Public Land came together to evaluate the need for a new program specifically focused on conserving the economic and environmental values of Maine’s forestlands. They spoke with landowners, land conservation professionals, ecologists, foresters, mill owners, hikers, hunters, anglers, guides, scientists, and community leaders. They also conducted a review of forestland conservation programs across the United States to find a relevant model for Maine. Their findings laid the groundwork for the restructuring of FSM into a staffed, Maine-based, fully independent, and self-sustaining organization dedicated to filling the role of the land trust for Maine’s North Woods. Alan Hutchinson, FSM’s founding executive director, was hired in 1997 and a steady stream of important projects emerged beginning with the 20,000-acre Nicatous Lake project and followed shortly thereafter by the 329,000-acre West Branch project.
While we’ve spent much of the last year reflecting on our progress, we have also been looking ahead to the next 30 years. We have met with hundreds of FSM supporters and friends across the state. We learned there is continued need for FSM, our inclusive conservation approach, and our focus on large working forest landscapes. As a result Forest Society of Maine remains committed to its mission ensuring that the integrity and productivity of Maine’s North Woods will endure.