The Plum Creek Timber Co. appears to be moving in the right direction with the revisions it has announced for its proposed development in the Moosehead Lake region.
The company says it will produce “basically a new plan” that will include permanent conservation easements and a less sprawling footprint.
The announcement is encouraging, especially as it shows Plum Creek officials have paid attention to concerns expressed by critics and conservationists at meetings held by the state Land Use Regulation Commission around the state.
The four meetings — called “scoping sessions” — drew large crowds. One session, held in Hallowell, drew more than 300 people; it overflowed the Maple Hill Farm and Conference Center.
Apparently Plum Creek got the message: People are concerned about massive development in the North Woods.
The original proposal called for the state to rezone 426,000 acres in Somerset and Piscataquis counties. The company, based in Seattle, proposed to develop about 10,000 acres with two resorts, nearly 1,000 house lots, RV parks, a golf course, a marina and rental cabins in prime areas around the lake.
Plum Creek said it would give the state easements to prevent development of most of the land for 30 years. Conservation groups argued that did not offer enough protection and demanded permanent easements.
Plum Creek says its new plan will include permanent conservation easements and — to limit sprawl — will shift some of the development closer to Greenville. That would be good news for a community that has great interest in tourism.
While it may be impossible for Plum Creek to completely satisfy every person or organization who criticized the original plan, it is significant that the company seems to be willing to make significant adjustments and compromises. The revisions being contemplated seem to be far more than tinkering.
A study commissioned by Plum Creek reported that the proposed development would create 800 new jobs and generate an average of $41.5 million each year in personal income.
The revisions being drafted could change that estimate, but it seems clear that whatever plan emerges would have a major economic impact.
Plum Creek said it expects to complete the new plan in February. Our hope is that it offers a blueprint for a reasonable development — with proper protections — for the Moosehead Lake area.