Current Projects

The Porter Hills Conservation Initiative

The Francis Small Heritage Trust has embarked on another ambitious project — the Porter Hills Initiative — which is a vision of conserving lands that have been on the market and an expansive effort to obtain the funds to accomplish our goals. The Maine Natural Areas Program has designated this area as having high priority for conservation and habitat protection, and there are nearby properties with connectivity and resilience that will support and enhance the maintenance of this Focus Area. We are working to purchase lands that become available in the Porter Hills, and to also accept conservation easements on those where owners want protection of their land while maintaining their ownership. Our intention, to the extent that this is possible, is to keep these lands open to the public for traditional uses such as hiking, hunting and fishing, and to also allow the uses of snowmobiles, ATVs, and mountain bikes on the old roadways and trails where those uses have been long established. We also want to encourage sustainable forestry in suitable areas, all while preserving and protecting critical habitats. At the start of 2022, we already owned the Bald Ledge Preserve and we have a conservation easement on a part of the Fox Farm property, both within the Porter Hills Focus Area.

View from Bald Ledge
The view from Bald Ledge when visited by some of the Denmark Mountain Hikers in 2021. The existing Bald Ledge Preserve has a long-established trail to this stunning view. The Bald Ledge Summit parcel is 200 acres that is being acquired, which will include these ledges and all lands to the south and west. This should also enable a new trail from Colcord Pond Road to this view, with a trail head that can be reached by road during all seasons.

Over the past year and a half, FSHT has moved from our initial vision to a very detailed and comprehensive plan. We have advanced from owning just 25 acres at Bald Ledge to the expectation of acquiring almost 750 acres of the Porter Hills by the end of this year (2022). The initial effort on the Porter Hills project was entirely by volunteer work of a small committee of our Board of Directors. As the complexity of the project became clearer, we were encouraged by others in the conservation field to engage the services of an experienced consultant in land conservation. Funding of our need for consultant services and for expenses such as survey work and appraisals was made possible by generous grants from the William Wharton Foundation and by a large grant that was enabled by our work with the Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative (SMCC). Those grants and other generous donations have given us almost $150,000 to manage the significant expenses of this work. With unanimous support from the FSHT Board of Directors, we enlisted the services of Jerry Bley, owner of Creative Conservation LLC. Jerry is renowned across the state for his knowledge and skills in helping land trusts and families conserve important lands for future generations.

The Beaver Pond of Herons Haven. This ten-acre wetlands is a large part of the southern area of this 80 acre parcel. Adjacent to this parcel, to the east, is the 100-acre Fox Brook parcel which has the headwaters and watershed of the brook of that name.

Jerry has worked as our project manager to move confidently in developing our plans, finding necessary mapping services, acquiring purchase agreements with willing landowners, and securing the appraisal services that we have needed. In addition, two other consultants have worked with us for writing the actual grant applications. Alison Truesdale developed our successful application to the Maine Natural Areas Conservation Program (MNRCP) for the acquisition of a 133-acre parcel that includes about half of the 100-acre Great Porter Heath. Cheri Dunning, with support of the SMCC, was the author of our Land For Maine’s Future (LMF) application. On May 26, we were notified that our LMF proposal has been accepted (Yay!!), and this will enable the acquisition of five other very significant properties in the Porter Hills.

Although the LMF grant will enable the acquisition of those five properties, this grant provides funds for less than half of the total cost of these lands. Without the willingness of a local family that is donating two of those properties, we would not have had the necessary funding. Jerry is working with this family to manage the process of donating those lands, and he is working on plans for other conservation easements on other lands in the Porter Hills. The Forest Society of Maine, which already holds other conservation easements here, is a partner in this effort.

Devils Den has the capstone, panoramic view that draws visitors to this place for all the year around. This view is at the southern edge of this 50-acre parcel. Our plans include development of a new parking area and a new footpath to this view.

We are also reaching out to other landowners; if they may have interest in selling their land, we would include those lands in a future proposal that we will hope to develop in the next few years. We have the extreme good fortune of having a group of dedicated residents from this area, who have supported and promoted this effort every step of the way. The project is big and very important, and we move forward one step at a time to keep these significant lands in southwestern Maine’s Porter Hills protected and available for future generations, while continuing to support the local tax base.

The Great Porter Heath as viewed from the south from near the Moody Road. Our Porter Heath Preserve has about half of the area of these wetlands, the northern half of The Heath. A kiosk and trail heads will be developed at the intersection of Heath Road and Old County Road.
This cabin/lodge already exists on the property just 100 yards from the view point. Our intention is to develop this as an environmental education facility and information center for the entire project area.
Blueberry fields and expansive views to the north at the crest of Blueberry Hill’s 80 acres.
Bickford Slopes is about 170 acres rising from Bickford Pond Road to the NH border. The southern slopes of this land have been identified with an exemplary pine-oak forest community as seen in this view. Near the NH border, this parcel has the highest summit of all the lands in this project.