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Orange River Watershed Initiative

Maine Coast Heritage Trust is working in partnership with a group of organizations committed to restoring the health of coastal rivers and watersheds in eastern Maine. Our flagship project is the Orange River and the land, lakes, and streams surrounding it, which represent one of the most significant conservation and restoration opportunities on the coast of Maine. Timely conservation of two key parcels of land in Downeast Maine will protect important wildlife habitat, restore once-thriving recreational and commercial fisheries, and reconnect people to the land, creating a lasting positive impact on both the economic and ecological well-being of the region.

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For more detailed information about key land parcels:

Positive Impact

Over the past three decades, Maine Coast Heritage Trust has protected more than 143,000 acres in Maine, including hundreds of miles of shoreline and more than 300 entire coastal islands. We continue our mission to conserve and steward Maine’s coastal lands and islands for their scenic beauty, ecological value, outdoor recreational opportunities, and contribution to community well-being. In consideration of these goals and the unique qualities of the Whiting Corner and Rocky Lake projects and the watershed at large, we’ve identified four areas of focus for the Orange River Initiative.

Fish Passage

Ensuring fish passage and protecting the health of the freshwater wetlands and waterways in the Orange River watershed promises to rejuvenate once-abundant river herring populations (alewife and blueback) and other ocean-run fish species. Restoration of the ecological balance of the Orange River watershed will have a far-reaching impact on Cobscook Bay, one of the most biodiverse marine ecosystems in the northeast Atlantic. This is a crucial first step to restore groundfish to eastern Maine and diversify fisheries in support of sustainable local economies.

Recreation and Public Access

Maine’s storied Route 1 runs through the heart of this region, yet the river and lakes retain the pristine, wilderness feel of a more remote area. Linking the extensive network of conserved lands and waterways in the region will increase the community’s public access to fishing, hiking, paddling, hunting, and camping, while providing economic opportunity for tourism-based businesses and services.

Wildlife Habitat

In response to development pressure in Maine’s coastal communities, MCHT is committed to creating and protecting permanent wildlife corridors. These large contiguous tracts of land allow wildlife to thrive and move unimpeded through a variety of habitats. Conservation in the Orange River watershed will provide a critical link between Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge (8,735 acres) and the Cutler Coast Public Reserved Land (12,234 acres). Successful conservation will also protect important habitat for migratory shore birds, waterfowl, and wading birds.

Economic Benefit

MCHT seeks to contribute to the strength, resilience, and vitality of coastal Washington County communities by conserving the land and water resources necessary to support sustainable economic opportunity. Public preserves guarantee community access and provide infrastructure to support ecotourism. Restoring a healthy fish migration will revitalize a seasonal source of income for local fishermen and provide high-quality, low-cost bait to local lobstermen. The herring run will also make the area a destination for tourists and school groups interested in learning about this unique part of Maine’s ecology and heritage.

Next Steps

In the initial phase of the Initiative, MCHT seeks to raise a minimum of $2.2 million by December 2016. A successful effort will offer immediate benefits while serving as the catalyst for continued large-scale community conservation in the region.

Contributions to the Orange River Watershed Initiative will be used to:

  • purchase the 2,352-acre Rocky Lake parcel
  • underwrite a $50,000 partnership contribution to the Downeast Salmon Federation for purchase of the Whiting Corner property
  • complete a matching challenge from the J.A. Woollam Foundation
  • provide necessary stewardship funds to establish a permanently protected public preserve
  • fund operational support for our efforts.

How You Can Help

To support this initiative by visiting the Orange River Initiative online donation page, or you can contact:

Nicky Blanchard
Director of Development

Maine Coast Heritage Trust
Maine Office
1 Bowdoin Mill Island, Suite 201
Topsham, ME 04086

Jacob van de Sande
Project Manager

Maine Coast Heritage Trust
Washington County Office
13A Willow Street
East Machias, ME 04630