July 20, 2019

Expansions proposed for Moosehorn Refuge

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will hold two public information meetings in the region next month on plans to expand the Baring and Edmunds units of the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge. The meetings will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 1, at the Calais Senior Citizens Center and at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 2, at Pembroke Elementary School.

The service hopes to add about 1,000 acres of shoreline habitat to the Edmunds Unit, along the Dennys Bay arm of Cobscook Bay. Three parcels are under consideration: the Bellier Cove area from Belyea Road and Route 1 to Hurley Point in Edmunds, Youngs Cove to Ox Cove on Leighton’s Neck in Pembroke and Wilbur Neck, also in Pembroke.

The proposed addition to the Baring Unit is 1,190 acres of wetland and upland habitat, adjacent to the unit’s southeastern boundary, and includes part of the Moosehorn Brook flood plain and the lower stretch of Rocky Meadow Brook. The Edmunds Unit contains 6,665 acres, while the Baring Unit is 16,000 acres.

An environmental assessment released by the service last week states that Cobscook Bay provides some of the most important habitat in Maine for waterfowl, bald eagles, shore birds and marine mammals. The area has been designated a top priority for protection in the U.S.-Canada North American Waterfowl Management Plan because of the great number of black ducks that winter around Cobscook Bay. The Baring Unit is noted for its importance as nesting, brood-rearing and migration habitat for woodcock and black duck.

The service proposes cooperative arrangements with landowners to acquire the lands through outright purchase or the purchase of conservation easements. It is the service’s policy to obtain the minimum interest in the land that is necessary to achieve its objective of preserving wildlife habitat, so conservation easements are often the most cost-effective method. However, since easements include the purchase of development rights, their cost can approach that of title purchases, making that method financially unfeasible. Purchases are made at fair market value.

Although its primary purposes is to protect habitat, Moosehorn has always allowed shoreline access, clamming, cross-country skiing, fishing, hunting and other activities compatible with wildlife management goals. The service also makes revenue-sharing payments to the communities and townships in lieu of property taxes, at a value based upon the highest and best use of the land. The refuge made payments totaling $45,733 in 1988.

If the landowners are not willing to sell their land or the development rights, the service either will take no action, relying on existing federal, state and local laws and regulations to protect the habitat, or it will rely on the involvement of conservation agencies or organizations, such as the Land for Maine’s Future Board, the Nature Conservancy, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Quoddy Regional Land Trust.

Written comments on the proposed acquisitions should be sent by May 9 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional office at One Gateway Center, Suite 700, Newton Corner, Mass. 02158.

More information may be obtained by calling either William Zinni at the service’s Office of Realty at (617) 965-5100 ext. 410, or Moosehorn Refuge Manager Douglas Mullen at (207) 454-3521.

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