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Two Trees Forestry
167 Main St.
P.O. Box 356
Winthrop, ME 04364
V: (207) 377-7196
F: (207) 377-7198 harold@twotreesforestry.com

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Friday, September 21 2012

One man's dream, realized

By Lee Burnett

Many landowners mistakenly believe that logging and land conservation are incompatible activities. Long-time property owner Jack Henshaw was determined to pursue both goals on his 194 acres in Brunswick. He has succeeded beyond his expectations. Henshaw recently sold a conservation easement on his property for more than three quarters of a million dollars. The easement explicitly allows for continued timber havesting, but in exchange for significant buffer areas around streams and wetlands. Under the terms of the easement, Henshaw is now conducting a 90-acre timber harvest. "I'm extremely happy," said Henshaw, who runs a hardwood log brokerage business.

The lucrative outcome certainly contrasts with the beginning of the story. When Henshaw's parents bought the farm in 1944, it had no plumbing or electrical service. That was fine with the Henshaws, who visited from Pittsburgh during the summers. They gardened, picnicked, clammed the mudflats of Maquoit Bay and swam at high tide. Over the years, the character of their property changed little, but the neighborhood changed. Today, Bunganuc Road, where Jack now lives year-round, is part of suburbia. Curbside recycling, high-speed internet, home delivery pizza are all part of daily living. "This part of Maine isn't rural anymore," said Jack.

Henshaw's 194 acres stood out like "a little jewel in the middle of development" and he wanted to keep it that way. In 2009, he bought out his brother's share of the property and went "full speed ahead" with placing a conservation easement on the property. A conservation easement is a legally binding document reflecting the current owners' wishes of how the land will be used in the future. In Jack's case, he wanted his land to be available for recreation and forestry, but never developed for housing.

Henshaw didn't know the value of his timber until he called in Two Trees Forestry and was pleasantly surprised. "I've been in hardwood business for 35 years. My property does not have much hardwood, and the spruce I never thought was worth anything, but yes, it's worth quite a bit."

Henshaw's easement is unique in part because it drafted as a timber harvest was being planned and laid out. "We flagged and mapped 25'-wide no-cut buffers around all wetlands and streams," explained Harold Burnett of Two Trees. "I was able to hand to the land trust a detailed wetlands map of Jack's property, which quickly became part of the easement negotiations," he said.

Handing over the information had consequences because the agencies willing to help fund acquisition of the conservation easement seeing the mapped buffers decided that larger ones were warranted. A larger buffer, free from logging, would however reduce timber-sale income to Henshaw. But the powerful force that drove this effort more than compensated for the loss of timber-sale income.

Henshaw's property, which includes 1,500 feet of shorefront on Maquoit Bay, is valuable habitat for migratory shorebirds. The watershed of Maquoit Bay has become so important that the US Fish & Wildlife Department now recognizes it as nationally significant. Its significance was not known to Jack when he decided to create a legacy with his land, but it increased the monetary value of the easement. Last year, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, a partner in easement negotiations, applied for and obtained a $772,100 grant from the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program. Other funding was also secured. "Jack got lucky by location," said Burnett. "It was nothing that Jack had anything to do with, other than it was a place his family wanted to be.

"Not everybody is able to strike a sweet deal with the feds. Not all are harvesting timber near a nationally sensitive area, but everyone has a degree of sensitive ground on their land and all can cut timber and protect wildlife habitats."

The Henshaw property which now goes by the name of the Chase Reserve in honor of an officer during the Revolutionary War brings to 1,600 acres of conservation land held by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, says executive director Andrea Twitchell. "This property is key in our mind in many ways," she said. "It's an important conservation target of national and state significance. It also connects to a number of other properties."

She praised Henshaw for "going the extra mile make sure primary interest is to conserve property." Henshaw delayed the timber sale so terms of the easement were followed, she said. "It was great he was willing to do that. He held off so he could make sure it was done correctly. We will monitor before and after the cut very carefully." A proverbial win-win.