Comments to SCIWC on Canadian Heritage River Report

March 14, 2012

Messrs. Don Dougherty
Ken Gordon
Co-Chairs, St. Croix International Waterway Commission
St Croix International Waterway Commission
Box 610, Calais, ME 04619

Re: The St. Croix International Waterway Commission 2012 Canadian Heritage River Report


We appreciate the opportunity through Steve Keith of our Board to share resource information with Chris Barr about the Upper St. Croix-Chiputneticook Lakes area regarding the Commission’s 2012 Canadian Heritage River Report. This work is extremely timely as we believe there is a window of opportunity to permanently protect what remains of all that the Upper St. Croix represents. The purpose of this letter is to offer some general observations about the landscape and two related areas of concern; the first is natural character the second, scenic degradation.

Retaining Natural Character
East Grand Lake, in its entirety, is home to hundreds of cottages concentrated in approximately ten distinct but widely separated mixed residential/commercial neighborhoods. These separate and distinct neighborhoods have been incrementally developed, until recent times, near public road access. This clustering, as if planned, has strategically separated highly developed areas from sections of undeveloped shorefront, thus retaining a form of natural character unique to a developed lake. Furthermore, it is this fragile blending of the natural landscape that has for years been the major contributor to the desirability of East Grand for sport fishing and cottage owners alike. We believe further erosion of these natural shoreline areas will result in irreversible declines in the ecological, biological and cultural health of the watershed and risk the long term economic viability of the entire Upper St. Croix area.

Notwithstanding the above, there is one major advantage to addressing land use in the Upper St. Croix, and that is, a majority of the landscape is owned by a small number of landowners. The Crown through it’s acquisition of the former GP lands is the major landowner along the Canadian Shore including lands that abut Monument Brook. While almost all of these lands remain undeveloped, the Crown currently has avenues to change land use from timber to development under certain protocols. Conversely, many freehold interests that border the waterway have undergone a recent increase in development, especially those lands that border the upper part of East Grand Lake.

On the Maine side of the Upper St. Croix the percentage of the developed shore land has remained somewhat constant. However, the existing development footprint has undergone significant upgrades, enlargements, back lot subdivisions and shoreline alterations in response to a sizable increase in year-round and intensive seasonal residential use. The good news here is that most of what remains as undeveloped shorefront also resides with one owner. That owner, The Conservation Fund, recently purchased the former GP lands located in Weston and Orient that border the waterway. We believe they have plans to conserve much of the shore land around East Grand and North Lakes and to protect wildlife habitat along Monument Brook. These two landowners, the Crown and The Conservation Fund must serve as the focal point for the protection of the remaining natural character in this watershed. We strongly urge you to call for the Crown lands to be permanently protected from development and to wholeheartedly support The Conservation Fund efforts in the Upper St. Croix Watershed.

Scenic Degradation
Wind power development in Maine has seen tremendous political, regulatory and public financing momentum. However, one of the apparent flaws in the Maine regulatory system is the lack of proper vetting of specific site locations in the very early stages of wind farm development. This flaw leads to substantial community angst pitting the potential “windfall” of short-term local tax revenue against the long-term stewardship of all of the larger landscape’s natural resources.

We believe one of worst examples of a totally improper location, is the wind farm project proposed for the high land located southeasterly of East Grand Lake in Maine. This project, if approved, would potentially lead to the construction of a long line of 400+ foot high towers situated on a parallel ridge-line 2 miles or less from the Shore of East Grand Lake. A wind farm development at this location would totally dominate the Upper St. Croix landscape. We believe the project would not only destroy the existing scenic qualities and seriously degrade the area’s natural appeal (which is a major contributor to long-term economic health), but also frustrate much of what a Heritage River System should represent. We believe it is critical that this location be found off limits to wind farm development. To that end we urge you to exercise as much influence as possible.

The Woodie Wheaton Land Trust recognizes there is balance and synergy between sustaining the economic well-being of the Upper St. Croix communities in a heavily dependent natural resource economy, and the conservation of the area’s natural, cultural, and historic resources. Now is the time to permanently address that delicate balance. We urge you to pursue your work with these thoughts in mind, and to not hesitate to use us as a resource in this effort.

Thank you.


Elbridge G. Cleaves

xc-C. Barr
S. Keith
–D. Wheaton

Spednic Canadian Shore Partnerships

In 2012 the Land Trust began a multi-year effort to help strengthen the protection of the Canadian Shore. A Cross Border Working Agreement was executed with The Nature Trust of New Brunswick to help facilitate future funding of conservation projects within the International corridor. The relationship with The Nature Trust led to collaborative work on the Department of Natural Resources Protected Natural Areas Program and the Crown Lands Exchange policy. Crown Lands comprise nearly all of the remaining undeveloped shorefront along the upper St. Croix including East Grand in the Province of New Brunswick.

(please check back as this section is currently being re-written )

Woodie Wheaton Land Trust Center

center-artsThe Woodie Wheaton Land Trust Center – was completed in 2009 to serve as the Trust’s business office and meeting facility. Through the generosity of Ruth Wheaton, wife of Woodie Wheaton, came the donation of property.  It was one of the most desirable building sites in the center of the village. We will be eternally grateful for her generosity.

Approximately one-third of the Center’s anticipated project cost became a reality through a major enabling financial contribution by Robert Hector, friend of the Trust.

Between May 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009, 67 contributors, who had never contributed to the WWLT previously, donated $26,088.  to the WWLT Center Construction Fund which satisfied the terms of the C. F. Adams Charitable Trust Challenge and  C.F. Adams kindly sent their $25,000.00 matching grant. In addition, the Maine Community Foundation challenged us to raise $25,000.00 for an Endowment Fund for the WWLT Center. Thanks to the generous gifts of our donors, we met that challenge as well. In January 2010, with the proceeds from both, we established a WWLTC Endowment Fund which will provide income for the maintenance and repairs that are inevitable for a building in the north country.

The landscaping was completed in the Spring of 2010. And through gifts from our generous donors we were able to purchase furnishings for the small meeting room, the office, the kitchen and the guest room upstairs.

In addition to serving as the trust’s new office and meeting facility, the new center provides a base for community outreach, education, field trips ad is available for use by other community groups in Maine and New Brunswick. This new center provides for a new level of professionalism and allows directors a place to meet away from their own cottage porches, living rooms and kitchens taking place into the wee hours which invaded family privacy for fifteen years. “Now those closets cramped with maps and bedrooms stacked with file cabinets have a permanent residence and an organization run on deep seated passion and personal sacrifice is better positioned for the Herculean tasks of conservation, encroachment defense and staunch stewardship of the future” states Director, Art Wheaton.

West Grand Lake

2008 – West Grand Lake – the Trust provided financial collateral to a sister organization, the Downeast Lakes Land Trust, toward the conservation of a 22,000-acre parcel along West Grand Lake.

(Please check back as we rewrite the history of this project. It will be posted soon along with photos from the project)

Greenland Island

Woodie Wheaton Land Trust purchases and preserves East Grand Lake’s Greenland Island

2008 – Ggreenland-islandreenland Island – The Woodie Wheaton Land Trust has purchased scenic Greenland Island, in East Grand Lake. The purchase was undertaken for the benefit of the general public — for the aesthetic and recreational enjoyment of all lake users. The land trust is committed to preserving the natural character of East Grand Lake for  future generations.

Located near the Greenland Point Landing in the Town of Danforth, Greenland Island has long served as a place where local residents and visitors can enjoy a quiet respite under its dense forest canopy, while enjoying the expansive view across the lake. Consisting of over one half mile of rugged, undeveloped, forested shoreline, the island also contributes greatly to the natural beauty of East Grand Lake.

To ensure that this local landmark will forever provide public benefit, and that development rights are extinguished, the Woodie Wheaton Land Trust has responded to the property’s appearance on the real estate market by purchasing it with a mortgage loan from Machias Savings Bank. The land trust has purchased the property and created a stewarship endowment for the island. We are still in the process of raising money for the endowment.

Saving Greenland Island

The Woodie Wheaton Land Trust has long viewed Greenland Island in East Grand Lake as a critical component of lake conservation. When the island came on the market in 2008, the trust acted quickly to purchase it via a mortgage loan. The next summer, WWLT board ,staff and members gave the island an interior makeover. Filling plastic garbage bags with decades-old rubbish, they tidied up the grounds and transported the debris to the Danforth landfill. They also repaired the picnic table and improved the pathway on the south side.

For all lake users, Greenland Island is a precious oasis. WWLT is committed to permanently maintaining this scenic site for primitive picnicking and camping. The island can once again be enjoyed by all––guides who spin their stories at lunch, visitors who want to enjoy the natural setting, and local folks who wish to have a few moments “away from it all.”  Such special spaces and experiences are only made possible through the efforts of members; members like Ben Garson, who was moved to youthful fundraising and volunteerism as the 4th generation of family sportsmen to ply the waters of East Grand Lake. You too can help extinguish the mortgage by making a donation to WWLT, 2 Grove Rd., Forest City, ME 04413.

The Two Lobes of Greenland Island

This property is an island located in East Grand Lake in Danforth, Washington County, Maine. East Grand Lake is situated in the headwaters of the East Branch of the St. Croix River and serves as the international boundary between New Brunswick, Canada and Maine, USA. East Grand Lake is a large cold water fishery of approximately 16,070 acres with a maximum depth of 128 feet. It is stocked with landlocked salmon and contains a natural population of lake trout and smallmouth bass. The property is situated near Greenland Cove, a neighborhood containing seasonal shorefront camp lots and a commercial campground. There is a public boat launch and public parking area about 1/4 mile east of the island that can serve as an access point. Greenland Island is irregular in shape and depending on the water level (the lake drawdown can be as much as 6.5 feet) varies in size and shape. At high water, the subject can appear to be two separate islands. For this reason, the island can be described as being in two segments referred to as the “east” and “west lobes”. The entire parcel is about 6.1 acres. The east and west lobes were estimated to be 2.8 and 3.3 acres, with 1,400 and 1,600 Waterfront Footage respectively. The waterfront footage is estimated to be 3,000 feet. The island is relatively flat and rocky with shallow soils. The shoreline is rocky and shallow, making it challenging to approach by motor boat.

A Brief History: 

Compiled by Art and Dale Wheaton

Viewing the glittering 16,070 acres of East Grand Lake from the air, one immediately notices distinctive, kidney-shaped Greenland Island abutting the lake’s largest open-water expanse. On the water — unlike Billy and Nan Islands, which are occupied by herring and black-backed gulls — Greenland’s forested profile invites fishermen and picnickers to come ashore, its double lobes boasting 3,100 feet of rocky shoreline.

Why do we think so much of this special place? It is one of the landmarks of East Grand Lake, and those of us who see it up close and personal have fond memories of this little pearl and its intriguing history.

Bud Brooks, at 82 years young and a font of historical knowledge, remembers being towed on a sled across the slick, gleaming ice by his dad, Waldo, a superb skater. On their way home from Danforth, they stopped and visited Billy Springer, locally known as “the hermit of Greenland Island.” Mr. Springer was a lanky fellow who lived alone in his sturdy cabin with a team of work horses in a nearby shed — his sole company through the long Maine winter. His old block chimney and root cellar remain as part of the island’s heritage. Bud also tells of sheep grazing on Manley (also known as Snow’s) Island which, like nearby Fosters Island, was practically barren of trees a century ago.

In 1953, Woodie Wheaton landed on the overgrown island with his fishing party to make lunch, and was surprised to find the derelict building of the old hermit, now dead for many years. Woodie also found a narrow channel where the woodsman had used his horses to carve a boat landing through the rocky shore. Later Woodie built a rustic table and fire pit, and the island became a regular lunch site for local fishing guides until the mid-l 990s, when someone erected a small structure and occupied the site during the summer months. From the open and vacant cabin — and the hermit having no known living heirs — Woodie removed an old rifle, a diary, and a family bible with many dates inscribed. The diary listed the number of steps (in thousands) across the ice to distant Forest City, Billy and Nan Islands, and other landmarks.

The Woodie Wheaton Land Trust has long viewed Greenland Island as a critical component of lake conservation to benefit residents and nonresidents alike. When the island came on the market in 2008, the trust acted quickly to purchase it via a mortgage loan. The next summer, the WWLT board and staff gave the island an interior makeover. Filling plastic garbage bags with cans and bottles, bent iron, and decades-old rubbish, they tidied up the grounds and transported the debris to the Danforth landfill. They also repaired the picnic table and improved the pathway on the south side.

Not often does a developed property have a chance to revert to its natural character with public access assured. For guides and their sports, the availability of a lunch spot with south wind protection near Greenland Cove is welcome indeed. For all lake users, Greenland Island is a precious oasis. WWLT is committed to permanently maintaining this scenic site for primitive picnicking and camping. The island can once again be enjoyed by all — guides who spin their stories at lunch, visitors who want to enjoy the natural setting, and local folks who wish to have a moments “away from it all.”

The East Grand Watershed Initiative

2010 – East Grand Watershed Initiative – A five (5) year effort lead by the Woodie Wheaton Land Trust named the “East Grand Watershed Initiative” was committed to a path of conservation through an outright purchase of fee interest in 2011 by The Conservation Fund. The 12,013 acres of forest and shore lands included a 1,750 acre deer wintering area of state-wide significance, hundreds of acres of high value wetlands, wildlife and bird habitat and nearly 30 miles of shoreline along Monument Stream, East Grand Lake, Longley, Deering, North, Sucker and Brackett Lakes.

Adding to our successes along Spednic Lake and other local waters, the Woodie Wheaton Land Trust efforts to conserve major portions of the undeveloped shore lands in Maine along East Grand, Brackett, Longfellow, Lost and North Lakes have resulted in an outright acquisition of this landscape by The Conservation Fund.  We are pleased to have initiated this effort and to have worked diligently over the past two years with The Conservation Fund toward what will be a huge win for conservation and for the communities in the East Grand Lake area.

Downeast Lakes Forestry Partnership

2001 to 2005 – Downeast Lakes Forestry Partnership – Actively participated in partnership spearheaded by the New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF) and the Downeast Lakes Land Trust to extinguish development rights on 312,000 acres of forest land in Washington County. The Downeast Lakes Forestry Partnership is the largest conservation project ever completed in Washington County, Maine, permanently protecting 445 miles of underdeveloped shoreline on 60 lakes and over 1500 miles of river and stream frontage.

Birch Island

In 1996, Dale Wheaton and Mark Danforth witnessed a float plane land on Spednic Lake and someone stepped out to place a “For Sale” sign on the Birch Islands, always considered the Crown jewel of Spednic Lake. The very thought of the heart and soul of this watershed being “For Sale” sent a ripple through the guide corps. While concern had been growing amongst guides that this lake and for that matter, the Region, could be lost to pressures of an ever encroaching world, immediate action was taken as long time guide Andrew Brooks quoted, “if we have to, we must dig into our own pockets to buy Birch Island”. In 1998 a 25-acre purchase of Birch Island and Little Birch Island by WWLT was conveyed to the State of Maine with restrictive deed covenants.

(We are presently working on posting the full story along with a map and photos. Please check back soon)

Baskahegan Easement

In 1995, the Trust quietly promoted a 500-foot easement along more than 16 miles of Spednic Lake shoreline and fee interest which included Walker, Monument, Hairy, Pickle (Woodie Wheaton Island) and 4 other unnamed islands conveyed by Baskehegan Lumber Company to the State of Maine.

(We are in process of posting the fascinating story of how this project developed along with photos and a map. Please check back)