• Kirk Siegel

New: Wildlands Fund

Updated: Oct 18

First Forever Wild Preserve to be created by Ken Hotopp Wildlands Fund


It’s happening! The Ken Hotopp Wildlands Fund has its first project well underway. Roughly 400 acres in Albany Township near MLT’s existing Flint Farm conservation easement are under negotiation with willing landowners and will be acquired this year when adequate funds are raised. MLT’s new Wildlands program recognizes that nearly all conservation land in our region is oriented toward active human management, and there are precious few conservation areas that are permanently dedicated to being left forever wild.


MLT’s Wildlands Fund is dedicated to acquiring and caring for such areas, inspired by and in memory of MLT board member and volunteer, Ken Hotopp. Ken was a naturalist, conservation biologist, and defender of wilderness and the climate. In his career Ken grew to understand how ecosystems and organisms thrived when left alone. He developed an appreciation for wildness and wilderness. He wanted future generations to know what it feels like to stand alone in a forest to feel the vitality and vibrance of a genuinely wild ecosystem.


The vast majority of MLT’s 20,000+ acres of preserves and conservation easements allow active management, which may include activities such as timber harvesting, farming, and creation of trails for mountain biking and hiking–all important components of our regional economy and way of life. Our new wildlands will still allow access to enjoy the scenic beauty and other wilderness values through minimal impact, non-mechanized recreation, such as walking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, canoeing, and nature observation and study.


MLT’s work draws inspiration from the words of the Wilderness Act of 1964:

“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is . . .recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”


A 400-acre wildland preserve at Flint Mountain will be a modest first step to demonstrate how undeveloped and minimally managed lands play an essential role in forest ecosystems. Undisturbed land can provide benchmarks against future change and provide habitat and other benefits more traditionally managed land can not. This land contains large hardwood stands containing abundant red oak approximately 100 years in age and “pasture oaks” of very significant girth possibly dating back well into the 1800’s when the land was actively farmed.


There has been little or no harvesting in recent decades on much of the acreage. These lands are thus well on their way toward healing and restoration from human impact. The property’s wildland status will also protect documented Wild Brook Trout habitat on two of its streams that feed the Crooked River.


The role of unmanaged lands to combat climate change is becoming clearer, and Flint Mountain will be a pilot project to study and understand how. As noted by The Nature Conservancy’s Mark G. Anderson, PhD:

“Recently published, peer-reviewed science has established that unmanaged forests can be highly effective at capturing and storing carbon. It is now clear that trees accumulate carbon over their entire lifespan and that old, wild forests accumulate far more carbon than they lose through decomposition and respiration, thus acting as carbon sinks. This is especially true when taking into account the role of undisturbed soils only found in unmanaged forests.” rewilding.org/wild-carbon-a-synthesis-of-recent-findings

As a forever wild preserve, the primary permissible recreational access will be for hiking, backcountry skiing, and snowshoeing. Flint Mountain has an existing high quality trail to a picnic table on one of its summits from the public road, with striking views to the White Mountains and to nearby Sawin Hill. Additional trail creation will ensure public access to other high points without creating extensive trail networks. We envision small parking areas in the future if needed. Motorized use will be prohibited. Hunting of non-predator species will likely be allowed, using the Northeast Wilderness Trust (NEWT) easement model as guidance. NEWT is a regional leader in wilderness preservation and is sharing its expertise with MLT.


Their staff is assisting MLT to put permanent “forever wild” conservation measures in place so that the ecological integrity and wild character of the land will be preserved and protected in perpetuity.


In addition to the above, this project lies between and near the White Mountain National Forest and MLT’s 12,300-acre Crooked River Headwaters conservation easement, extending habitat protections and preventing habitat fragmentation. This forested land in Sebago Lake’s headwaters will play an essential role in the health of Sebago Lake and Greater Portland’s drinking water–as a result, the acquisitions are likely to have financial support from Sebago Clean Waters and Portland Water District, as well as The Conservation Fund through its Oxford County Land Conservation Grant Program established by the Stifler Family Foundation.


Last year, an outpouring of gifts from Ken’s friends and family and other defenders of wilderness established the Wildlands Fund, creating a reserve fund allowing us to talk with landowners with the confidence that we could complete the project.


If this project calls to you, please consider a donation to the Wildlands Fund above and beyond your critical support to our annual fund.


The purpose of the Ken Hotopp Wildlands Fund is to designate land to be protected in its natural condition, in perpetuity, as free from human manipulation and disturbance as possible. Natural occurrences such as floods, weather events, and fire and native insect outbreaks will continue to influence the land over time.


Wildlands benefit natural communities as well as humans who enjoy the scenic beauty and other wilderness values through minimal impact, non-mechanized recreation, such as walking, snowshoeing, skiing, canoeing, and nature observation and study.


bikers along fern-lined trail
Most of MLT’s conservation projects offer many uses—such as our 12,300-acre Crooked River Headwaters conservation easement, which has a top-level mountain bike network maintained by Inland Woods + Trails. Wildlands projects will allow more limited trail systems, typically for walking, snowshoeing, and backcountry skiing.


“The purpose of the Ken Hotopp Wildlands Fund is to designate land to be protected in its natural condition. The ecological integrity and wild character of the land are preserved and protected in perpetuity. Wildlands should be as free from human manipulation and disturbance as possible, with management actions, if any, primarily limited to ecological restoration of native species, preservation of natural communities and rare species at risk, maintenance of non-mechanized trails, and the establishment of new trails where they can be created with minimal disturbance. Natural occurrences such as floods, weather events, and fire and native insect outbreaks should continue to influence the land over time, creating at times areas of downed, dead wood or early succession habitat. Land preserved as wildlands benefits the natural communities thereon as well as humans who enjoy the scenic beauty and other wilderness values through minimal impact, non-mechanized recreation, such as walking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, canoeing, and nature observation and study.”

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