The Machias River, one of Maine's wildest and most cherished waterways, flows for 76 miles from Fifth Machias Lake to tidewater in downtown Machias. The State oversees stewardship and recreational use along its nearly unbroken shoreline, thanks to a remarkable effort that has protected more than 60,000 acres in the Machias River watershed-the country's largest, self-sustaining wild Atlantic salmon run. This landscape-scale conservation project, which spanned more than a decade, successfully preserved 252 miles of river and shore frontage from development and subdivision, while ensuring that the region's working forests can keep contributing to the local economy. Recreational access is guaranteed for all time, helping to maintain a scenic and popular backcountry canoe route (considered by paddlers to be more accessible than the St. John and less heavily traveled than the Allagash).
The State owns 14,000 acres outright and holds the remaining lands under conservation easements that prevent development and greatly restrict timber cutting in a 1,000-foot corridor on both sides of the river's mainstem and major tributaries. Many minor tributaries and other headwaters are completely protected through conservation ownership-either in the State's Duck Lake Public Lands (west of Fourth Machias Lake) or in the 55,678-acre Downeast Lakes Community Forest that Downeast Lakes Land Trust owns and manages (along Wabassus, Pocumcus and West Grand Lakes). The State holds additional easements in the upper watershed, ensuring that 88 percent of the land base cannot be subdivided and developed-a critical factor in preserving the river's high water quality).
Conservation efforts along the Machias may help stabilize Maine's Atlantic salmon population (which has fallen precipitously since the 1980s). Among the state's eight wild Atlantic salmon rivers, the Machias contains the greatest amount of juvenile-rearing habitat and has the highest estimated smolt production. The river system also supports a rich array of wading birds, waterfowl, neotropical migrants and grassland species. In 2006, the American Bird Conservancy identified this Downeast Lakes region of Maine as a Globally Important Bird Area, noting the occurrence of at least 180 species of birds, including 23 warblers.
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