Insight on Maine public land usage

Discussion in 'Maine' started by Leshy_apprentice, Feb 19, 2018.

  1. Leshy_apprentice

    Leshy_apprentice Supporter Supporter

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    Hi, all. I've been in Maine a couple of years, but circumstances haven't been conducive to me getting field time. I'd like to explore Maine more and get more bushcraft and camping field time.

    My preferred land use is generally National Forest Designated Wilderness Areas, or equivalent due to relatively laid back restrictions on camping in those areas, compared to state parks or national parks. I've been to a few of the White Mountain National Forest Wilderness Areas in ME and NH since moving here.

    I'm curious to hear your insights on primitive camping, bushcraft, backpacking, etc on Maine public lands. From what I understand my best options for low-regulation, wilderness camping are "Maine Public Reserved Lands" which are scattered across the state in various acreages, and allow camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, etc. Any insights into primitive camping in these areas?

    I've also heard that some timber companies own vast land tracts they allow people to camp in (for a usage fee, I believe?). Can anyone provide further info on how this works, or where more specific information about it is posted online?

    Maybe a better way of asking my question is how do you tenured Mainers identify good public land for primitive camping, and how do you research it for trip planning. Access, parking, fees, fire restrictions, permits if required, etc?

    I can get any usgs topographic quad map online, and I do have a Delormes Atlas. I'm covered on maps.
     
  2. bumma

    bumma I'm not lost. Just a bit confused. Supporter

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  3. Leshy_apprentice

    Leshy_apprentice Supporter Supporter

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    "Fires are permitted only at designated sites" (from the website you linked to)

    Say it ain't so! I thought Maine public reserved land was more or less the equivalent of National Forest/BLM camping where you can camp and have fire pretty much anywhere you want as long as it's a certain number of feet off the trail or away from water, and not a designated "Recreation Area", day use site, Ecological/Wildlife Management Area, etc.

    I'm surprised by this fire policy which seems more like the developed state park campground rules, e.g. fire only in designated campsite fire-rings. Unless I'm misreading it due to my unfamiliarity having never visited Maine Public Reserved Lands for camping.

    I'm not clear, maybe they are talking about only having fires in designated fire rings when camping at campgrounds or established primitive sites, specifically.

    So can I park at a trailhead, hike into the backcountry of a Maine Public Reserved Land, bushwhack off-trail a good distance, select a campsite in accordance with standard low-impact criteria, and set a campfire at my site?

    I suppose I "CAN" do it...my question is does anyone know if there are specific regulations against it on Public Reserved Lands? Perhaps a call to the Ranger office is in order to clarify...
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2018
  4. Terasec

    Terasec Guide

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    not familiar with ME,
    am usually good at finding regs pertaining such,
    quick look at maine sites what they consider back country camping is only at designated campsites.
    this is just from a quick search from a non mainer
    would have to look further, make some calls and emails
    so far don't like what I see
     
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  5. Leshy_apprentice

    Leshy_apprentice Supporter Supporter

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    @Terasec That is the impression I got as well, but the way they phrased it just seems ambiguous. I'll have to have a conversation with the ranger office to clarify, I think.

    Considering the tens of thousands of acres some of these Public Reserved Land units are, I'm just surprised if that is the case. I see they manage them like national forests (selling timber harvest contracts, etc) so it just seems odd that the regulations would be that restrictive for recreational users, considering the extant of wilderness land in Maine.

    I'll clarify with a link to codified regulations when I have a chance to discuss with Rangers or do deeper research.

    I'm also still curious if anyone has experience camping on the private timber lands. I found this info about the Notth Maine Woods, Inc. which seems to be the largest such operation: http://www.northmainewoods.org/information/fees.html

    I will say that if this is typical of such operations, I will NOT be visiting anything of the sort. $22 per day ($10 day use fee plus separate $12 per night camping fee)? Or $250 per year to primitive camp? For camping at authorized campsites only, which may or may not require obtaining a fire permit? Nope. Not a chance. I understand it is a private business, and good luck to them but they will not be getting my business on that model.

    Are there other private land organizations anyone out there is aware of that are friendly towards the primitive/bushcraft camping style?
     
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  6. Togus

    Togus Echo of the Loon Supporter

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    Being from Maine and living in Maine all I can tell you is this. Any land that is paper company lands or is designated for harvesting will often have didicated camp sites. Those sites are easily found through a Gazeteer or other camping resource literature/sites. “Bushwhacking” in and kindling fires is not permitted. Camp fires are only permitted in designated campsite with existing fire rings/pits or at campgrounds. There are a bunch of dedicated sites throughout state and national park that you can camp and have camp fires but they are designated as such. But, you cannot go onto a land trust, reserve area, state/fed park, or privately held land, i.e. paper company and set up your own camp and make a fire, at least not legally.
     
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  7. Terasec

    Terasec Guide

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    thanks for letting us know,
    not from ME but had me curious
    people will bash NY for being a liberal utopia, but I am grateful for our outdoor friendly regs,
    state parks aside which are quite restrictive anywhere
    NY state forest regs, which consists of +2 million acres, such designated campsites are just in high traffic and sensitive areas, along trails, waters edge, high peaks, etc...
    outside of that with minimal regs you are allowed to go off trail and set up camp just about anywhere, as long as its +150 ft from a trail/road/waterway, fires are also allowed using downed dead,
    always find it disappointing when states restrict such primitive/backcountry camping.
     
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  8. Leshy_apprentice

    Leshy_apprentice Supporter Supporter

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    Pretty disappointing if all this is true. I'm not from Maine, and without meaning insult to the natives, I will say I can see why they call this region New "England." The regulations in several of the NE states I've researched or experienced are relatively burdensome (I'll stick just to public land regulations for the purpose of this discussion..don't get me started, haha!). I mean "relatively" burdensome when I compare them to the many, many other states' policies for public land usage I've encountered living or traveling through various US regions for camping.

    I won't be overly dramatic and say the state regulations here are draconian, but by comparison the New England state regulations I've encountered are noticably more strict than what I'd subjectively see as "average." Like terasec said, I was expecting it when I camped in NY, but with Maine's vast woods and relatively sparse population density outside of the major urban cities, I'm just surprised as an outsider who moved here after experiencing other states' policies which seem more..."reasonable" from my viewpoint. Like I said, I'll call a Ranger office to clarify.

    For my location, the White Mountain National Forest is about the same distance as the nearest Maine Public Reserve Land of any size for camping. I can always camp at the National Forest Wilderness Areas, or even regular national Forest non-campground land. Bushwhacking and primitive camping with responsible fires is no issue there.

    I don't mean to "bash" Maine and New England. There are certainly nice things about camping and exploring outdoors here as well. I'm just observing this through my perspective having lived and traveled all over the country camping for comparison. Just my 2 cents, and my perspective.
     
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  9. Togus

    Togus Echo of the Loon Supporter

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    The primary rationale for all of this is preservation of resources, meaning they don’t want people tromping on seedlings, killing new growth, or causing a forest fire.
     
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  10. Seacapt.

    Seacapt. Supporter Supporter

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    This will set you straight, Google "Public Land Rules Maine.gov."

    Yes you can have open fires under certain conditions in designated campsites that are free first come first served basis otherwise restricted to non wood fueled fires as specified in rules in area of your choosing. MIT (Maine Island Trail) has about 200 primitive islands to choose from 40 of which you have to be a MITA member to use if your into coastal kayak/canoe camping. Inland fresh water free pick your own sites on public reserve lands are mostly accessed by canoe if you want your own special spot. MIT and the Bigelow preserves are my 2 favorites,
     
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  11. Seacapt.

    Seacapt. Supporter Supporter

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    Yup and the main reason Maine is still the most forested state in the country 97% and the reason there's thousand of acres of public preserve land/islands that you can do your own thing on for free.
     
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  12. Leshy_apprentice

    Leshy_apprentice Supporter Supporter

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    I understand the arguments for and against those premises, and I'm not going to derail the thread debating their relative merits. That's a whole 'nother can of worms, as they say, haha. No offense meant!

    But seriously, I don't mean to give the impression I'm just looking to tramp out and run roughshod over the rules and set a giant forest fire. I'm just surprised, given my outsider perspective and the image of vast, backcountry wilderness recreation freedom Maine conjures up in my mind as an outsider...I'm surprised that the regulations for Public Reserve Lands (not state parks, mind you) are as..."actively managed" as they seem to be.

    Like I said, the National Forest is equally convenient for me as the nearest Public Reserve Lands, and MUCH nearer than most of the other Public Reserve Lands. I can just as easily camp in the National Forest and leave more space in the Public Reserve Lands for those who wish to pursue that style of camping. I've never had issues primitive camping in National Forests and their rules/management are generally more in line with my preferences for outdoor recreation, particularly NF Designated Wilderness Areas.

    Depending on what the Maine state ranger can tell me about backcountry Public Reserve Land usage, the ol' National Forest might just continue to be my go-to. Nothing wrong with that.
     
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  13. Terasec

    Terasec Guide

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    much of that is private lands,
    maine I believe has 500k acres of state lands,
    in comparison, NY which may not be as heavily forested has 4 million acres of state lands
    from my camp in upstate NY within 1/2 hr I have access to +100k acres of state forest, within 1 hr that goes up to 300k acres
     
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  14. Seacapt.

    Seacapt. Supporter Supporter

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    Just an observation, with just a few years in Maine under your belt it doesn't sound like you've spent much time North of Rt.16.
     
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  15. Leshy_apprentice

    Leshy_apprentice Supporter Supporter

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    Nope, and like I said I don't intend to demean Maine. It's just not the kind of public land policy I would have expected given the stereotypes us non-Mainers have of the state.
     
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  16. Leshy_apprentice

    Leshy_apprentice Supporter Supporter

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    So here's my understanding after speaking with a Forest Ranger: They "encourage" you to use the established primitive campsites. On the Public Reserve Land, fires are only allowed in the fire rings at these designated established campsites. Some private land is apparently incorporated into Public Reserved Land system, and some campsites are located on private land. Fires may be kindled on these private lands only with land owner permission, in addition to obtaining a fire permit from a Forest Ranger in advance. I asked about navigating off-trail to set up a low-impact camp elsewhere on Public Reserve Land than the designated campsites, provided no fire was kindled, and provided the site was set back reasonably from the trail, water sources, etc. He would not directly answer whether it is "allowed" to do so, but he kept saying users are "encouraged" to use the established sites. I also asked if he could point me to which regulation spells it out so I can research it, and he said that each park or reserved land unit keeps their own regulations books but the general outlines are similar to what's posted online.

    These Public Reserved Lands just aren't what I thought they were. They seem to be a mix of National Forest type land units (large multipurpose tracts managed for recreation and commerce) but with National/State Park style restrictions on the recreation use, at least the camping aspect. They do allow hunting which is more than you can say for most National/State Parks. There is good and bad to their system.

    My thoughts are that I might try Public Reserved Land camping for hiking and established site camping sometime when I'm taking my girlfriend out camping. In that case the ease and convenience of established camp sites on the trail might be beneficial. It would be nice to explore new places and see new sights in Maine on the Reserved Lands. But for my own camping purposes, I'll probably mostly stick to camping on National Forest lands for more backcountry freedom. Again, I'm not bashing the Maine system...it is what it is. I'm just a relatively new guy here and I wanted to familiarize myself with the rules.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2018
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  17. Seacapt.

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    ^^^^^^^^^^^
    If you decided to make camp in other than a designate primitive site you can still use a stove or enclosure with other various fuels as stated in the rules and on an offshore island you can have an open fire on the shore below the high water mark. Inwinter anywhere you can have an open fire as long as ground is snow covered and don't use live trees as fuel.
     
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  18. Leshy_apprentice

    Leshy_apprentice Supporter Supporter

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    @Seacapt. Thanks. I "could" do that (camp outside of the established spots with no open fire)...but it's a little weird that the Ranger would not just come out and say I'm "allowed" to do that. I asked specifically if it's "allowed", and he just repeated "encouraged to use established sites." That doesn't clear it up one way or the other, but a different ranger with a different idea of the rules might take it to mean that I'm "encouraged" to use an established site means "thou shalt use an established site." I'd just like to be clear on the rules to cover myself.

    National Forest lands with clearly defined and posted regulations for the win!
     
  19. x39

    x39 Hyperborean Supporter

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    While most land in Maine is privately held, a very large part of that land is open to public use. Maine indemnifies landowners against liability when they allow access to their land for recreational and harvesting purposes. Further, if land isn't posted you can enter it without the consent of the landowner. The general attitude is very similar to that of Scandinavia, where folks can pretty much wander where they want. There are, unfortunately more "No trespassing" signs popping up as people from the cities move to rural Maine with their bunker mentalities. There is also a lot of land belonging to various private conservancies which allow recreational use of their lands as well, some affording very nice opportunities. @Leshy_apprentice , I think you'll find it's a lot freer here than you might see at first glance, especially when you get beyond the southern part of the state.
     
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