Watkins Easement, Harrison, Maine
Watkins Easement Protects 690 Acres, 1.2 Miles of Frontage 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. 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 and the Casco Bay Estuary Program are jointly contributing $9,250 towards the project’s stewardship fund. The Land Trust would like to thank the Watkins family for their generous foresight and commitment to conservation, the staff of Integrated Forest Management and US 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.
On November 21, Mary and John Watkins donated a conservation easement protecting 690 acres of working forestlands in Harrison, 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.
Hague Easement, Waterford, Maine
Bart and Mary Anne Hague Donate an Easement on 88 Acres of Working Fields and Forest
In December, Bart and Mary Ann Hague donated a conservation easement to WFLT protecting the balance of their Waterford land. This was the fourth conservation easement Bart and Mary Ann have donated to the Trust since 1999; all in all they have protected a total of 460 acres in the Crooked River watershed including a 1.5 miles of river shoreline, 1,500 feet of shoreline on McWain Pond, and 3116 feet of frontage along the historic and picturesque McWain Hill Road.
Situated at the height of land on McWain Hill Road, the protected property enjoys panoramic views of the White Mountains and the Mahoosuc Range. The Hague’s lands comprise
a significant portion of David McWain’s original holdings in Waterford. This most recent easement protects the agricultural fields and working woods surrounding the 1790 McWain farmhouse, one of the state’s finest surviving examples of an 18th century vernacular(Massachusetts) farmhouse. As it will conserve the surrounding agricultural landscape, the conservation easement compliments and supports the McWain-Hall Farmhouse’s 1987 National Register of Historic Places designation.
Working with their entire family, Bart and Mary Ann crafted the farmstead easement in accord with other elements of their estate planning. Stewardship of the historic farmstead, fields and forests has been central to the Hague family since Bart’s aunt first purchased the old farmhouse in 1929.
The Parsons Farm, 230-Acre Historic Farm Protected in South Paris, Maine
Five years in the crafting, blending the desires and needs of three siblings, one cousin, and their spouses: a conservation easement protecting 230 acres of historic agricultural fields and woodlands in South Paris was donated to WFLT by Cynthia and Lawrence Curtis, Jeffrey Parsons, Jerome Parsons, and Margaret Weed. In December. The family’s extraordinary 1803 brick-ended farmhouse, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, while excluded from the easement, will benefit from the protection of its agricultural setting.
The easement provides for agricultural use of the farm’s prestigious fields, and continued management of the family’s forested acres. In addition, the easement will protect the undeveloped views of the fields and woodlands as well as the historic agricultural context for the historic house. Wildlife will benefit from these protected lands which provides habitat for a variety of animals, birds, and fish.
The land trust would like to thank all of the Parson clan for their dedication to achieving this unified goal. The entire community will benefit from the family’s generosity and foresight. The rural and historic views along Parsons and Town Farm Roads of one of our area’s founding farms will remain as it has been for over 200 years.
The Maurice G. Benson Forest
182 Acres of Working Forest in West Paris and Woodstock, Maine
In December, Marcia Benson donated a conservation easement protecting 182 acres of managed forest lands in West Paris and Woodstock in memory of her father, Maurice G. Benson. Marcia was raised on the family farm and attended the West Paris School, located next to the Benson farmhouse. The land, which has frontage along Churchill Hill and Curtis Hill Roads, is situated north of Main Street, West Paris. The forested parcel, which originally included large extended farmhouse on Main Street, was bought by Maurice G. Benson in the 1940s.
The easement will allow continued current use, but prohibits future subdivision and development of the land. The land will continue to be posted for hunting and trapping. The easement permits the creation of a walking trail by the Trust which would be beneficial to the local community and students of the Agnes Gray School.
Crockett Easement, 113 Acres in Hebron, Maine
Rare American Chestnut Tree Receives Deserved Attention
The tallest American chestnut tree in Maine, possibly the tallest American chestnut in the country, is quietly thriving in Ann Siekman and Roger Crockett’s Hebron forest: a 113-acre forest they chose to protect in 2011 via a conservation easement held by WFLT. Now quite accustomed to agency, club, and media attention, the 95-foot tall tree with a 78 inch circumference, is not only believed to be 20 feet taller than any other recorded in the state, but is perhaps the tallest of its species in the country.
"It is by far the tallest in the state, and possibly the largest in the country," said Alan Markert, a board member of Maine Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation which has featured the Hebron tree in its Jan/Feb edition of the Journal of the American Tree Foundation. The American chestnut once comprised as much as 25 percent of the Northeast forest; trees could grow 150 feet tall measuring 6 feet in diameter. The species was decimated by a blight beginning in 1904.
"It is truly beautiful and worthy of our attention and care,” Siekman said. "We were told about the tree when we purchased this property five years ago, and have enjoyed it and shown it to many interested people." The tree has a cone-shaped crown that blossoms after everything else is done blossoming, and it can be seen from quite a distance. This summer, after the tree has blossomed, scion cuttings will be taken to graft resulting in trees with the exact DNA of the Hebron tree. Ann said she is looking forward to working with the Maine Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation and the Oxford County Soil and Water Conservation District to provide information about the tree to the public and to preserve it.
A Portion of Moose Crossing Farm Protected
The Anne Gass Farm
Many of us in this community, and certainly anyone involved in wool production and spinning in Maine, remember with great fondness, Anne Bradstreet Whitehouse Gass, who passed away in 2014.
Prior to selling her home and remaining land on Christian Ridge Road, Anne’s children carried through with her wishes and donated a farm easement protecting the prime farm soils for the benefit of future farming in Paris. The 30- acre parcel, the southern-most portion of Anne and Allen Gass’ “Moose Crossing Farm,” possesses prime farm soils, wonderful views of the White Mountains, and a healthy woodlot. The new owners were pleased to purchase a protected parcel and look forward to living in western Maine . Our thanks to Anne Gass of Gray whose determination saw the easement through to signing.