Who Owns Maine’s Forest?

The forests of Maine stretch from Kittery to Fort Kent and from Jackman to Lubec. In fact, forests cover 90% (17.7 million acres) of the state, making Maine the most heavily forested state in the country.

Northern and eastern Maine have the largest tracts of undeveloped forest in the eastern United States. In the western United States, large blocks of forest are publicly owned and overseen by the federal government. Maine is unique in that the public owns just 6% of forest in the state. The other 94% (16.7 million acres) is in private hands.

Public Ownership

The public owns roughly 6% (1,000,000 acres) of Maine forestland. Of that, the state of Maine owns Baxter State Park (235,000 acres), 55 State Wildlife Management Areas, 29 Public Reserve Lands (482,000 acres), and 32 State Parks (from 500 to 43,000 acres in size). In total, the state owns more than 800,000 acres of public land. The federal government owns the other 200,000 acres of forest, including the part of the White Mountain National Forest located in western Maine, Acadia National Park, and five National Wildlife Refuges scattered across the state.

Private Ownership

Non-Industrial Private Landowners
More than 250,000 families and individuals own more than 35% (6.2 million acres) of Maine’s forest. Small woodland owners are those who own between one acre and 1,000 acres. Counted together as a whole, they lay claim to the largest share of Maine’s forest. 

Industrial Landowners

Companies that own paper mills, sawmills and other wood processing facilities own nearly 28% (5 million acres) of the forest, including large tracts in northern and eastern Maine.

Large Non-Industrial Landowners

A handful of landowners own 14% (approximately 2.5 million acres) of Maine’s forest. Owners of large tracts of non-industrial forest include individuals, families and public and private companies. By definition, a large non-industrial forest landowner owns more than 100,000 acres.

Investment Companies
Investment institutions, such as banks, insurance companies, mutual and pension funds and university endowment funds, own about 15% (more than 2.6 million acres).


Land Trusts and Conservation Organizations
Ninety-six land trusts and conservation organizations in the state own nearly 1.4% (251,000 acres).  The Maine Chapter of The Nature Conservancy owns the largest parcel -- approximately 180,000 acres along the St. John River in northwestern Maine.
Tribal Lands
Native American tribes own roughly 1% (approxi-mately 184,000 acres) of the Maine forest. The Penobscot Tribe owns 124,000 acres of land, most of which is forested. The Passamaquoddy Tribe owns 144,000 acres overall, including 60,000 acres of forest.


What is the size of your town in acres? In square miles?
What percentage of your town is forested?

How does your town categorize land ownership? Where could you find this information?

Forest Facts
In 1931, Governor Percival P. Baxter gave 5,960 acres to the state. Today, Baxter State Park has expanded to 235,000 acres. Mt. Katahdin, the highest mountain in the state, reaches 5,267 feet above sea level and marks the northern end of the 2,144-mile long Appalachian Trail.

Arookstook State Park was acquired by donation of 100 acres from the citizens of Presque Isle in 1938.

PLT Activity #32: A Forest of Many Usees

Privately and publicly owned forests are often managed to provide different products. These range from managing for pulpwood to make paper products to managing to create important wildlife habitat – or managing for both at the same time. In this activity, students will learn how forests are managed to meet a variety of human and environmental needs.

Maine Department of Conservation:
Bureau of Parks and Lands
Maine Forest Service

Information and links for Northeast Native Americans:

Maine Land Trust Network