Statement by Sheila Kelley
Good afternoon. My name is Sheila Kelley and I live year-round in Beaver Cove, on Moosehead Lake. I am here to share my view regarding the importance of protecting critical habitat for the endangered Canada lynx on the Lily Bay Peninsula.
I live just 3 miles from Lily Bay State Park, one of the most beautiful and fully-utilized parks in the State of Maine. The Park sits on a wonderful parcel of land facing Lily Bay and Sugar Island on the east shore of Moosehead Lake. Throughout the year, Lily Bay State Park enjoys a constant stream of visitors from all over Maine and the world, providing a healthy and affordable outdoor experience for many who could not otherwise afford to enjoy the shores of Moosehead Lake and its wonderful woods and wildlife habitat.
Just north of the Park sits a parcel of Plum Creek land on which they have proposed to develop a high-end resort and condominium complex, complete with a golf course, marina, an expensive second home community and other amenities. Unfortunately, both for the many who enjoy Lily Bay State Park, and for the wildlife which currently inhabit this parcel, such development would put an end to both the wild-feeling environment of the Park, but also to the critical habitat for endangered Canada Lynx.
I speak of the Canada Lynx in particular because I know how very special it is for those of us who live in the Moosehead region to enjoy having such a reclusive and seldom-seen wild cat in our midst. Also – Maine is the ONLY state in New England and one of only 3 in the lower 48 states known to have any existing population of the Canada Lynx. Many of our local guides and outfitting businesses make substantial portions of their summer earnings taking visitors out for “wildlife safaris” through the backwoods of the region, and those clients pay considerable sums for the chance of seeing a Moose, a Beaver Lodge, Spruce Grouse, Black Bear or other native species. But none is so seldom seen, nor so sought-after, as the endangered Canada Lynx. For me, to see one would be the experience of a life-time, and though I live there year-round, I have yet to be so fortunate.
My husband and I have often visited the wild cats’ little-known habitat areas, primarily those on the Lily Bay Peninsula. This past winter we went on a tracking snowshoe adventure across the Peninsula on a fresh dusting of overnight snow, seeking the signs of the wild creatures that inhabit the area. We were fortunate to find many tracks, including those of Red Fox, Coyote, Partridge, Moose, Deer and also Bobcat, but it was the thrill of our entire outing when we came across another set of fresh tracks in the snow, following closely the tracks of the Snowshoe Hare, and those tracks were of no other than the elusive Canada Lynx!! We photographed each set of tracks we found that day, and though we are not professional wildlife trackers, we are familiar with the many tracks indigenous to our region. We were confident and delighted to identify those of the most notable of our wild cats, the Canada Lynx.
The Canada Lynx has been a figure of some controversy of late. You may remember there was that nasty Federal Fish & Wildlife Habitat discussion last year, wherein large landowners, including Plum Creek were accused of attempting to influence Federal Officials regarding the listing of critical habitat for the Canada Lynx. Among those were these very lands where we photographed the tracks we’re sharing with you today. After further review, Federal Officials decided instead to suggest that these same lands and others be protected due to their importance as habitat for this endangered species. Finally, there are the findings of the Federal Fish & Wildlife Agency itself, wherein they annotated numerous sightings of Canada Lynx pairs successfully breeding on, among other places, the Lily Bay Peninsula.
So it is for this reason that I implore our State Agency, the Land Use Regulation Commission, not to allow development on these lands that will degrade and perhaps destroy this clearly identified critical habitat. I ask that the people of the State of Maine who realize the importance of such protection, stand and speak up in favor of relocating appropriate development to areas in the Moosehead region that can sustain it without habitat degradation, to where existing communities will benefit from, rather than compete with these proposed new development areas.
In doing so, we will ensure that our children and theirs will always be able to enjoy the prospect of seeing one of these most wonderful wild creatures of our North Maine Woods.