by Suzanne AuClair
Recent advertisements by Plum Creek would lead people to believe that the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife named them 2006 Landowner of the Year for their work on behalf of wildlife habitat, in particular for deer yards. (Half-page newspaper ads titled “To the People of Maine,” subtitle “On Wildlife Habitat Protection.”)
In fact, the award was one of six that was given to small- to large-landowners in recognition for snowmobile and ATV trail access. It is co-sponsored by the Maine Snowmobile Association.
The deer-yard management and the trail program have nothing to do with each other. For years IF&W has sought the cooperation of Plum Creek to help maintain local deer-wintering areas, with little success. Deceptions of this sort are what foster distrust for this corporation. It seems foolish not to play it straight, especially when the company is trying to garner as much support from the people of Maine as possible in order to get a major re-zoning of timberland approved.
To be recognized for allowing motorized trail access to the sporting public is worth lauding all on its own. But the conditions for deer yards have long been a sore frustration to our natural resource managers, who nevertheless continued to talk quietly with Plum Creek in the idea that more might be accomplished behind closed doors. That hasn’t worked.
Aside from Plum Creek’s poor performance for deer habitat, this particular recognition is part of a separate landowner relations program that was created in the early ’90s to recognize good private-public partnerships that honor access for outdoor recreation, especially for snowmobiling. It is an annual event to thank landowners and encourage responsible riding programs. Other recipients in three different categories included: 100 acres or less, George McKenney and Frank & Maryann Janusz; 100 acres or more, Peter Holman and Nate & Diana Merrill; and one other corporate landowner, Linkletter Timberlands. All recipients are nominated by snowmobile and ATV clubs.
The announcement made just this week that Plum Creek decided to pen an agreement with IF&W deer managers is great news, though it speaks volumes that the agreement is signed just over a month after the Natural Resources Council of Maine publicly revealed how badly the situation has become, and it does not change the fact that the award has nothing to do with the management of deer-wintering habitat.
Hopefully, the new agreement will bring future successes into the field.