State regulators said Tuesday that they now have enough information from Plum Creek Timber Co. to begin the formal review of the company’s development plans for the Moosehead Lake region.
The Land Use Regulation Commission said in an e-mail distributed Tuesday that Plum Creek submitted the details of an agreement with several conservation groups to permanently protect more than 340,000 acres in the Moosehead region.
LURC staffers had told Plum Creek they needed to see the purchase and sale agreement to consider the company’s concept plan for its Moosehead lands as complete. Having now deemed the company’s application “acceptable for processing,” LURC staff can move forward with a review that may take a year or longer to complete.
Public hearings are tentatively scheduled for the spring or summer of next year, LURC said Tuesday.
Seattle-based Plum Creek is proposing to sell off 975 house lots and land for two resorts in the Moosehead region. If approved by LURC, the plan would be the largest development project in Maine history.
Responding to earlier calls for more permanent conservation in the development, Plum Creek announced earlier this year that it was partnering with The Nature Conservancy, the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Forest Society of Maine to conserve more than 340,000 acres.
The deal with the three groups — valued at approximately $35 million — would rank as one of the largest land conservation projects in U.S. history. Some of the land would be purchased outright by the groups, while the rest would be placed in conservation easements.
Plum Creek also has offered to donate approximately 72,000 acres of conservation land to offset the proposed development in the company’s concept plan.
Many observers regard the regulatory review of Plum Creek’s application as a pivotal event in the future of Maine’s North Woods with significant implications for the local economy and the region’s natural resources.