I’m back at the St. Paul Center this morning for continued cross-examination of experts. The intervener process will be continuing for the rest of this week and pick up again for a week in mid January. As I’m typing NRCM’s attorney is cross-examining one of Plum Creek’s economic experts. You’ll be happy to know that the flocks of lawyers have not thinned over the past week. If you can believe it, it actually seems like the number has grown. In my experience spending time and working with people in Greenville a real concern has been what will happen to the families that currently live there if Plum Creek’s development proposal is successful. Many have referenced what has happened on Maine ’s coast as an example of what they don’t want to happen in Greenville. No one wants to see long time families forced to leave because of increased valuations and the taxes that come with it.
An interesting commentary from Will Neils, a witness from the Native Forest Network, on Friday touched on this issue. While being questioned by one of the members of the Commission, Mr. Neils made some eloquent comments about the changes that he has seen in the Camden region as more affluent people have come to town. Being born and raised in Appleton Mr. Neils testified that over his lifetime he had seen the taxes on his families property continue to climb as those who can’t afford to stay in Camden are forced inland to places like Appleton driving up costs. He feared that what has been happening on the coast of Maine will come to Greenville. Would long time residents of Greenville be forced away from Moosehead Lake and into towns like Shirley, Monson, and Dover-Foxcroft? Mr. Neils thought that a true “plan” for the region could only be created by the people of the region through some kind of broad public process that included community members across the region. He went on to say that a process like this should be done by some kind of public body like the Land Use Regulation Commission and not a for-profit corporation like Plum Creek.
There has been a lot of discussion happening in Maine about eco-tourism. Many of Plum Creek’s supporters have said that their support of the proposal is based on the economic development that would come from eco-tourism. NRCM used a large part of Friday afternoon to cross-examine Plum Creek’s tourism expert David Vail. Mr. Vail testified that while there are world standards for eco-tourism those standards have not been included in Plum Creek’s proposal. Interestingly, while being questioned by the Commission Mr. Vail said that he would be shocked to see major changes in the unemployment rate, loss of young, and poverty rate in the Moosehead region based on the Plum Creek proposal.
We’re expecting that later today NRCM’s expert on tourism will be taking the stand. I’ll do my best to keep you up to date.
– Diano Circo, NRCM North Woods Policy Advocate and Outreach Coordinator