To Protect Critical Ecosystems, We Must Expand Our Ecological Reserve System

by Stacie Haines

In Maine’s Moosehead Lake region, it is easy to spot Big Spencer. Formed by volcanic rocks, it juts out of the landscape with its sibling, Little Spencer, close by.

Both Big and Little Spencer beckoned to me – and my hiking buddies – for a few years before we decided to set foot on them last fall. We tackled Big Spencer first which we reached on logging roads more than 30 miles north of Greenville that aren’t well marked or easily passable on a good day.

The rewards of Big Spencer far outweigh the effort to get there. It’s an easy first mile up the trail to an opening with expansive views where there was once a fire warden’s cabin. The second mile up is a steep climb with ropes and ladders to aid in the ascent to the summit of 360-degree views of the Moosehead Lake Region and beyond to majestic Katahdin.

From a botanical standpoint, Big Spencer is an impressive example of vegetation that stratifies due to the elevation gain and coinciding drop in temperatures. At the base, there are hardwood and mixed wood slopes that give way to a subalpine forest near the summit. The vegetation along the 200-acre ridgeline is stunted fir and spruce with a carpet of moss beneath. The diverse ecosystem provides habitat for a multitude of flora and fauna.

Big Spencer Mountain is one of Maine’s Ecological Reserves. The goal of Maine’s ecological reserve system is to set aside public land that provides examples of all different habitat types in the state for scientific research, to protect biodiversity, and provide low-impact outdoor recreation.

This objective to protect all of Maine’s habitat types has not been met because the 20-year-old law limits the size of the state’s ecological reserve system. Maine Conservation Voters and our partners through the Environmental Priorities Coalition are lobbying for LD 736 this legislative session which would allow additional ecological reserves to be acquired by the Bureau of Parks and Lands.

As Maine faces growing threats from development, pollution, and climate change, it is more important than ever to protect rare, threatened, and endangered species and ensure ecosystems remain intact.

Maine must protect critical ecosystems, like Big Spencer Mountain, across our state that provide wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, outdoor recreation, and curb pollution.

Now is the moment to protect Maine land for future generations – of all species – that have made this state their home.