Environmentalists Divided on Plum Creek’s Plans
We report, you decide. Which environmental groups are right on Plum Creek’s conservation and development plan for the Moosehead Region, approved by Maine’s Land Use on September 23? Here’s what major environmental organizations had to say about the project and LURC’s decision.
Forest Society of Maine
(Forest Society of Maine is a statewide land trust working with landowners to conserve and maintain the many values of forestlands in Maine.)
“Two million acres of conserved lands in Maine’s North Woods. That is what Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission created on September 23 when it approved an historic Concept Plan covering more than 400,000 acres of lands owned by Plum Creek in the Moosehead Lake region.
“The Commission’s unanimous vote of approval culminates five years of public deliberations, public hearings and regulatory proceedings. Through its approval, the Commission permanently conserved 96 percent of those lands and permanently restricted future development to no more than 4 percent.
“The lands being conserved are comprised of a 363,000-acre conservation easement to be held and enforced by the Forest Society of Maine, 29,500 acres around the Roach Ponds acquired outright by the Appalachian Mountain Club, and 15,000 acres (abutting the Moose River and FSM’s easement in Attean Township) acquired outright by The Nature Conservancy.
“These newly conserved lands represent one of the largest blocks of land ever protected in Maine or the nation. In addition to the large size, its significance is heightened by its configuration – the now protected lands abut and connect many other existing conservation lands in Maine’s North Woods. The result is a network of conservation lands that exceed two million acres in size, reaching west from Mount Katahdin around Moosehead Lake and north to the St. John River and Canadian border.
“The 363,000-acre easement, at the core of this remarkable conservation achievement, keeps the forests as forests, guarantees public access, protects wildlife habitats and ecological values, and assures sustainable forestry practices.”
Natural Resources Council of Maine
Brownie Carson, executive director:
“Today’s vote by the Land Use Regulation Commission approving Plum Creek’s massive development plan for Moosehead Lake is deeply unsettling.
“It is unsettling because it may result in a level of future development, traffic, and increased congestion in the Moosehead Lake Region that will forever damage one of Maine’s most remarkable areas.
“NRCM and our colleagues and supporters played a critical role in helping reshape Plum Creek’s plan, but we remain disappointed with the final result.”
The Nature Conservancy
Michael Tetreault, executive director:
“I applaud the outstanding conservation accomplishments made possible by this process. This decision sets the stage for the lasting conservation of some 400,000 acres. Imagine that – roughly 96 percent of the proposal’s total acreage, with only four percent allowed for development. It creates a two-million-acre corridor of conservation across the North Woods as these new protected areas connect with places already in conservation. It removes dozens of remote ponds from the threat of development, all within a landscape of working forests, guaranteed ecological protections and public access.
“Some of the conservation outcomes of this project have already been realized. Just two days after LURC’s decision, The Nature Conservancy acquired the 15,000-acre Moose River Reserve, a parcel that includes the last unprotected portions of No. 5 Bob (the largest bog in western Maine) and the Moose River Bow Trip (one of Maine’s most popular remote paddle trips). The day before, the Appalachian Mountain Club had acquired the Roach Ponds Parcel, 29,500 acres that builds a corridor of protection along the Appalachian Trail’s 100-Mile Wilderness.”
Forest Ecology Network
Restore: the North Woods
Lynn Williams, attorney for both groups:
“There never was a demonstrated need for this project, either overall or in particular in the Lily Bay area. We find that this project, riddled as it is with errors, both legal, substantive and procedural, needs to be rejected by the court.”
Jonathon Carter, Forest Ecology Network director:
“The battle does continue, and the battle will continue, until we can turn this around. The Moosehead Region is a jewel, a crown jewel for Maine, and the approval of this 2,300 units and two resorts is a disaster.”
Open Space Institute
(Open Space Institute protects scenic, natural, and historic landscapes to ensure public enjoyment, conserve habitats, and sustain community character.)
“The Open Space Institute played a pivotal role in (LURC’s decision)… the company made several important revisions, which redirected the location of development and greatly expanded the amount and quality of permanent conservation.
“Three LURC commissioners, including Chairman Bart Harvey, cited OSI’s analysis as having a major impact on their thinking. Specifically, he and others repeated a central point OSI made in its reports and testimony before LURC – that the issue raised by Plum Creek’s proposal was not whether there would be development, but where and how to implement it… even if Plum Creek’s plan were rejected, under existing zoning regulations the company could still develop as many as 618 residential units (plus additional resort units bringing the total to 1,418 units overall) on 25 lakes and ponds. The just-approved plan now calls for 818 and 2,025 units, respectively, across only six lakes and ponds.”