by Doug Fletcher, staff writer
“This scale of development could change the character of the Moosehead region forever. This is a turning point in the history of Maine’s North Woods.” – Cathy Johnson, Natural Resources Council of Maine
Two resorts in works in Moosehead region A 48,500-acre woodlands buy is part of the deal. Maine’s Moosehead Lake region may never be the same.
On Tuesday, Plum Creek unveiled plans for two 3,000-acre resorts in the area, along with a 1,000-acre economic development park and another 1,000 acres devoted to affordable housing in Greenville.
Seattle-based Plum Creek, a woodlands management company, announced the projects at the same time it made public plans to buy 48,500 acres southeast of Greenville from Hancock Timber Resource Group. That would extend the company’s Maine holdings to 953,000 acres, a bit more than 5 percent of Maine’s total forestland.
In conjunction with that deal, said Plum Creek President and CEO Rick Holley, the company was proposing a 30-year forest management plan that involves 415,000 acres. That plan, which would go to the state’s Land Use Regulation Commission in January, will spell out what Holley suggested was an ambitious conservation program.
As a trade-off for LURC approval of house lot developments on certain ponds and the proposed resorts on Brassua Lake to the northwest of Moosehead and at Lily Bay on Moosehead, Plum Creek would move to protect 50 or more remote “pristine” ponds from development. The company also would offer permanent easements for nearly 75 miles of snowmobile trails that already cross its lands near Moosehead and another 43 miles of proposed hiking and cross-country skiing trails to be developed in the 100 Mile Wilderness area already traversed by the Appalachian Trail.
Plum Creek would also offer the state some plum properties for conservation purposes.
Among them: High-value land in the Roach Ponds area, at Attean Pond on the Moose River Bow Trip, at Bald Mountain Pond and on Crocker Mountain between Saddleback and Sugarloaf mountains.
“We’re very happy” with that aspect of Plum Creek’s proposals, said Cathy Johnson.
Johnson handles North Woods issues for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Plum Creek officials briefed the NRCM on its plans Tuesday morning.
Johnson also said she is pleased to learn of the company’s plans to work with Greenville to develop affordable year-round housing in the remote community, which serves as a gateway to the North Woods.
In a statement, Johnson called the Moosehead Lake area a “gem for the local community, for people across the state, and nationally.”>/p>
She said, “There is nothing that we would like better than to see this area of the state permanently protected. The spectacular mountaintops, undeveloped ponds and remote forests of the North Woods are part of Maine’s heritage and should be preserved so that future generations may enjoy them. It is the beautiful, undeveloped forestland that is the backbone of the region’s forest products and tourism economy.”>/p>
But Johnson also voiced a series of concerns.
“Plum Creek’s development proposal for 400,000 acres of land raises some very important questions. The scale of the proposal is without precedent” in Maine, she said.
“It is possible that the development will include more than 800 new house lots, five to ten times more house lots than the biggest proposal ever reviewed by LURC,” Johnson said. “This scale of development could change the character of the Moosehead region forever. This is a turning point in the history of Maine’s North Woods.”>/p>
She said that based on the historic average rate of development of new homes in LURC jurisdiction, “we would expect to see about 250 new homes in an area of this size over the next 30 years.”>/p>
She also questioned the location of Plum Creek’s proposed development.
“It appears that much of the proposed development will be on lakes, ponds and river frontage, miles from Greenville. Given that Plum Creek owns another 550,000 acres south of Greenville, it is unclear why the more remote areas were chosen for development instead of those areas closer to municipal services.”>/p>
Johnson said she also has questions about Plum Creek’s efforts to put conservation easements in place around many of its ponds.
“They say they want the easements to be permanent,” she said, “but they’re proposing them through LURC.” Johnson noted that LURC functions as a zoning agency and as such, any easements could be altered in the future through a zoning change.
Holly, however, said that his company’s proposal is multifaceted and holds a host of benefits for both the Moosehead region and the state.
“Plum Creek recognizes that the Greenville and Rockwood areas are a recreational hub and gateway to the Moosehead Lake region and the North Woods,” said Holley. “That’s why we’re working to develop a thoughtful, long-term comprehensive plan that addresses the important community values and needs” of the area.
He said the company’s proposal would “help maintain the economic viability of the forest products industry, preserve lands with significant conservation values, promote permanent recreation access to key trails and stimulate job creation and economic development.”>/p>
Lee Umphrey, a spokesman for Gov. John Baldacci, referred calls regarding the Plum Creek proposal to Department of Conservation Commissioner Pat McGowan. Umphrey said that because there are regulatory issues involved in the process, the governor wants to get the Conservation Department’s take on the proposal before embracing it.
Plum Creek is one of the nation’s largest landowners, holding about 8 million acres of timberlands in 20 states including Maine
• Founded: 1989 as a spin-off from Burlington Resources
• Corporate headquarters: Seattle
• Primary business: To grow, harvest and sell timber; derives added value through natural resources and manufactured wood products sold to retail and other markets.
• Employs: 2,040 people in 20 states
• Plants: More than 85 million seedlings annually
• Status: Real estate investment trust
(Source: Plum Creek)
Development proposals include:
Conservation offerings include:
(Source: Plum Creek)