Orono Land Trust: Orono Land Trust, a conservation and recreation legacy
This is the first of a series.
This is the first in a series of articles introducing the Orono Land Trust and its lands to the folks in the Greater Bangor area. Our goal is to familiarize our readers with these lands, describe the many opportunities they offer, and provide directions on how to reach them. OLT formed 30 years ago to protect a key parcel of land in Orono. It has grown from a few concerned families to more than 150 members and 10 supporting businesses. In 2015, OLT became nationally accredited, meaning that the organization achieves the highest standards in business and financial management as well as land stewardship. OLT is administered by 20 dedicated board members and is one of the few all-volunteer land trusts in the state.
OLT conserves land for the primary purposes of conserving habitats for their diverse vegetation, their wildlife, and for recreational opportunities for the public. Habitats range from upland forests to diverse wetland areas. Some areas, such as pine–oak woodlands or sensitive wetland habitats are seasonally buffered to protect nesting birds. OLT has procured grants to purchase large blocks of forested and wetland habitats; these lands were transferred to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for the Caribou Bog Wildlife Management Area or to the University of Maine Forest System for their management. These large blocks provide habitat for Maine’s larger mammals, such as black bears, as well as interior nesting birds like the wood thrush.
In total, OLT administers 29 different parcels of land. Eleven of these are owned outright, nine properties have conservation easements, and 9 have trail easements. A cadre of OLT stewards monitor almost 1,300 acres of land. In addition, OLT has raised the funds to acquire an additional 3,200 acres of primarily forestland that has been transferred to other conservation owners. To consider any land to purchase or to establish a conservation easement with a landowner, OLT goes through a rigorous evaluation of a land, including identifying conservation values, recreation potential, and location. After a decision is made to acquire the land, a management plan is developed. This plan may include trail development, timber harvesting, or retaining the land as open space. One or more stewards oversee each parcel and prepare annual reports outlining any work that needs to be done the following year. Of special importance is the marking and clearing of boundary lines.
All OLT lands are open to the public (except during temporary closures to reduce disturbance to wildlife breeding seasons) for recreation, including: hiking, birding, cross-country skiing, biking, and horseback riding. Some areas are also open to hunting, but hunters should check the OLT web site for details. Motorized vehicular use is discouraged on most lands. OLT works closely with the Penobscot Valley Ski Club and the New England Mountain Biking Association to maintain and groom ski and bike trails. In total, more than 20 miles of trails are included on OLT lands and there are many connections to trails on adjoining properties, some of which are on private property and users are asked to respect those owners. Kiosks are present at the larger, heavily used sites.
Future articles will highlight individual OLT lands outlining their attributes and providing directions to their location.