After about a decade of negotiations, a conservation group has preserved two peaks and 183 acres of forest, swamp and blueberry fields in Orland.
Hothole Mountain and Condon Hill have long been on the wishlist for the Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust, and the nonprofit closed on the large swath of land late last month.
The $134,500 purchase will ensure that this area on the western edge of Hancock County remains undeveloped and will safeguard wildlife habitat, said Landon Fake, the trust’s executive director. The group also plans to install a new trail network that would open up a set of views that have been in private hands for years.
The Hothole Mountain parcel abuts the trust’s 4,500-acre Wildlands preserve area in Orland and the acquisition comes on the heels of another large land deal. This summer the trust announced it purchased 355 acres of land along the Dead River across from the Wildlands, preserving the waterway’s entire shoreline.
Having these unfragmented, undeveloped areas helps create islands of habitat that can support a wider variety of species, according to Fake. It also makes it easier for rarer plant species to thrive and adds a layer of protection against invasive species.
“Large blocks of land are important for habitat reasons,” Fake said. “A lot of species need a big chunk to survive.”
The new property was privately owned and was used for timber harvesting and blueberry picking. The mountain areas have been good habitat for bobcats and bears and the parcel’s cedar swamp has served a similar role for deer.
The negotiations took several years partially because the parties had to nail down an easement for a gravel road that runs through part of the property.
The trust plans to take an inventory of the land this fall and will scope out where trails could be laid. Hothole and Condon Hill are both relatively short elevation-wise. Hothole stacks up at 485 feet high and Condon Hill is 657 feet.
But their proximity to parking areas in the preserve will help with the trust’s goals of getting more summit trails closer to the already established trailheads in the Wildlands.
“Right now when you park at the north gate and the south gate, it’s pretty long to get to the peaks to get views,” Fake said. “We’re interested in creating trails that are closer to the trailheads.”