By Anne Sentz, ATC Landscape Partnership Manager

A Prime Example of A.T. Landscape Protection

October 2, 2020

One of the most important aspects of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s (ATC) work is ensuring that the irreplaceable landscapes surrounding the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) are conserved; they are an essential part of the A.T. hiking experience and key for preserving wildlife habitats, strengthening recreation economies and fortifying climate resiliency. This work is a cornerstone of our 2021-2024 Strategic Plan, with the goal of preserving 100,000 acres of A.T. lands over the next three years.

The amount of effort, collaboration and dedication needed to ensure the protection of these lands was on full display with one of our recent successes in A.T. landscape conservation: Bald Mountain Pond.

Credit: The Trust for Public Land

Located south of Monson, Maine, and the famed 100-Mile Wilderness, Bald Mountain Pond provides A.T. hikers with views of century-old forests and rugged mountains as they walk along the far shore of the pond. This area is an enormous draw for hikers, paddlers and anglers, as its remote location and lack of nearby development mean outdoor recreationists often find themselves enjoying this wild place alone. Our partners at Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust (MATLT) rightfully call Bald Mountain Pond a “hidden gem.”

Much of Maine’s forestland is privately owned, as was the case with Bald Mountain Pond and its surrounding woods. While the timber companies that once owned these parcels historically allowed recreational access to the area, this arrangement was more of a tradition than a guarantee. Because the A.T. and its narrow corridor are adjacent to the pond and surrounding forest, the lack of ongoing protection for these lands was a concern for the ATC and its conservation partners.

In the early 2000s, however, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity emerged to forever protect this extraordinary landscape when the area’s landowners voiced their willingness to sell.

Credit: Chris Bennett Photography

Conservation groups in Maine, including the ATC, MATLT and the Trust for Public Land (TPL), developed a protection plan for Bald Mountain Pond. That plan included the protection of the high lands to the west along the ridge of Moxie Bald Mountain (over which the A.T. traverses); the preservation of the pond itself; and the acquisition of a boat launch area that would ensure the public maintained access to the pond. Accomplishing these tasks involved countless hours of hard work, whether it was negotiating with willing sellers, raising millions of dollars needed to purchase these lands, advocating for public Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars, and determining a plan for future management and stewardship. Without a variety of conservation partners working together, it is likely such a large project would never have come to fruition.

Yet after more than a decade, the final result of this hard work was announced in 2020, protecting not only the undeveloped forest surrounding Bald Mountain Pond — 1,105 acres now held and stewarded by MATLT — but also an additional 1,515 acres of high lands adjacent to the A.T. to the west, which are now held by the National Park Service (NPS). These lands will remain open to the public forever, and they will also protect scenic views from the A.T. while supporting species like the Arctic charr and Common loon.

Watch the video announcing the full protection of Bald Mountain Pond. Courtesy of the Trust for Public Land.

Bald Mountain Pond’s protection highlights the importance of collaborative conservation partnerships and why those partnerships are vital to accelerating the pace of greater A.T. protection. Both TPL and MATLT are strong participants in the Appalachian Trail Landscape Partnership, or ATLP, which is co-led by the ATC and NPS. Since the ATLP’s establishment in 2015, the network has grown to encompass close to 100 partners who are invested in the conservation of the A.T. landscape. The ATC has dedicated more than $1 million to land protection projects over the past three years to conserve over 60,000 acres of Trailside lands — lands like Bald Mountain Pond — that contribute to an iconic A.T. recreational experience and the conservation of vital Appalachian Mountain ecosystems.

Land conservation is never easy and is often complicated, but it is always worth it. Without a dedicated group of partners who see the Trail as a backbone of a large landscape that must remain connected and accessible, the A.T. experience would not be what it is today. These projects take significant time, funding and collaboration, but these efforts will ultimately benefit A.T. visitors and the Trail’s surrounding environments for generations to come.


In addition to TPL and MATLT, other partners who made the Bald Mountain Pond victory possible include The Betterment Fund, The Conservation Alliance, Elliotsville Foundation, Maine Appalachian Trail Club, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Maine Mountain Collaborative, National Park Foundation, National Park Service, National Park Trust, Novatus Energy, Poland Spring® ORIGIN, Summer Hill Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – North American Wetlands Conservation Act, and Weyerhaeuser.

DONATE TODAY

Your support helps us ensure irreplaceable landscapes like Bald Mountain Pond are protected forever for all to enjoy.

Lead image courtesy of Chris Bennett Photography.