Through a partnership between Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sally Island in Gouldsboro and North Twinnie Island in Bar Harbor were recently added to the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge, with funding supported by Maine's Congressional Delegation.
The two islands provide valuable habitat to seabirds: Sally Island's five acres benefit eider ducks, black guillemots and other nesting species, while 3.5-acre North Twinnie Island supports various duck species and contains a bald eagle nest. MCHT secured both islands in recent years with the intent of transferring them to the Refuge for permanent conservation when monies became available through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). With help from Maine's Congressional Delegation, the necessary funds were included in the federal budget that was approved in April.
The total number of islands in the Refuge now stands at fifty-six. The Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge complex totals more than 8,100 acres and spans more than 250 miles of Maine coastline, including five national wildlife refuges -- Petit Manan, Cross Island, Franklin Island, Seal Island, and Pond Island. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the refuge complex as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Purchase of these islands for their seabird nesting habitat values was strongly recommended by the Refuge's Comprehensive Conservation Plan, published in 2005. MCHT was able to acquire these islands over a number of years, thanks to willing landowners. "Protecting these islands is a significant step in the ongoing protection of one of Maine's most fragile natural resources," commented MCHT President Tim Glidden. "MCHT is proud of our longstanding partnership with the Refuge to enhance and protect Maine's nationally-significant seabird nesting islands."
Both islands are in close proximity to other conserved lands--North Twinnie lies adjacent to Acadia National Park's Thompson Island and MCHT's Thomas Island Preserve. Sally Island is near Western Island and Bar Island, both MCHT conservation properties in the Sally Island chain.
Refuge Manager Beth Goettel expressed gratitude to those who assisted the Refuge in making these additions a reality. "One of the real challenges of building a national wildlife refuge, especially one made up of multiple islands, is putting together its many pieces over time. Science tells us which islands make sense to eventually add to the refuge, but in many cases those islands are privately owned. The Service needs the help of willing landowners, of which there fortunately are many, and partners like MCHT, to be able to acquire the properties identified in our Conservation Plan. This important work can only happen when we all work together to achieve the common goal of habitat protection."
The Service's primary focus at Maine Coastal Islands Refuge is restoring and managing colonies of nesting seabirds. Refuge islands provide habitat for common, Arctic, and endangered roseate terns; Atlantic puffins; razorbills; black guillemots; Leach's storm-petrels; herring, greater black-backed, and laughing gulls; double-crested and great cormorants; and common eiders. Over the last 25 years, the Service has worked to reverse the decline in these birds' populations. As a result, many species have returned to islands where they nested historically.