The Natural Resources Council of Maine deserves credit for drafting a conceptual alternative to Plum Creek’s massive development scenario for the Moosehead Lake region.
Some may consider it presumptuous for the council, Maine’s largest environmental group, to try to influence development on private holdings.
NRCM officials, however, stress that the document released last week isn’t a plan in the traditional sense. Instead, they say, it’s an attempt to encourage development that would benefit this economically struggling region while protecting the natural resources that drive the burgeoning recreation tourism industry.
The exercise might not have been needed had the Land Use Regulation Commission developed a comprehensive regional plan like it did for the Rangeley area. However, severe budget and staffing cuts in recent years now means LURC will be in a reactive mode as Plum Creek and other timber country developers advance their ideas.
The NRCM vision, crafted with the input of local environmental and economic interests, calls for half of the roughly 1,000 lots that Plum Creek initially proposed. It eliminates Plum Creek’s idea of a marina at Lily Bay and instead sees a revitalized, four-season lodge at Big Moose Mountain – which the company doesn’t own.
In essence, the NRCM model emphasizes permanent conservation, reduces lakefront development and refocuses growth around existing communities.
Plum Creek is reworking its proposal, which also included two resorts, three RV parks, four sporting camps and 116 rental cabins spread across 29 townships. The company wisely withdrew it after LURC received a petition signed by 5,000 Mainers opposing it.
Had LURC completed a regional plan, NRCM might not have felt compelled to submit its own.
Nature and public policy, it seems, both abhor a vacuum.