Over the past three years, Maine people by the thousands have participated in a debate about the future of the Moosehead Lake region. Through letters, e-mails, and public testimony to The Land Use Regulation Commission, people from across the state and beyond have explained why Moosehead Lake is so special to them and their families, and why Plum Creek should not be allowed to forever damage the natural character, wildlife habitat, water quality, and rare features of this region of Maine.
The level of concern and eloquent testimonials in defense of Moosehead Lake has been truly inspirational – unlike anything I have seen in my 24 years at the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
Now we are moving into the final phase of this process. Sometime in the next few months, LURC will make a final decision on Plum Creek’s application to rezone 400,000 acres in the Moosehead Lake region. The LURC Commissioners clearly recognize the importance of this decision for the future of our state, as do people across Maine and the country.
It is no exaggeration to say that people are watching this decision from around the world. The Moosehead Lake region is that special.
At the end of May, LURC staff provided to the Commission a long list of recommended changes in Plum Creek’s plan. Some of the proposed changes would be improvements and some would be steps backward. Particularly worrisome is that LURC staff did not recommend removal of the proposed resort and second-home development proposed for Lily Bay, despite well-documented support for this change during the public and technical hearings.
The staff recommended a reduction in the number of acres to be developed at Lily Bay, but no reduction in the number of housing units (404) or in the type of development that would be allowed – which could include a resort, marina, golf course, stores, and many other intrusions – essentially a new town – on the Lily Bay peninsula. Without a doubt, this level of development would forever change the experience of the eastern side of Moosehead Lake – where solitude, affordable camping, wildlife watching and outdoor recreation are treasured by visitors at Lily Bay State Park.
We believe Lily Bay must be protected, and we are here today to present a proposal for accomplishing that goal. Specifically, we urge LURC to remove all development from Lily Bay. We urge LURC to include the Lily Bay parcel as part of the lands designated for conservation, and to balance this action by reducing the “legacy easement” lands by 33,500 acres to the west of Moosehead Lake.
Because LURC standards require balancing development with conservation, removing development from Lily Bay could cause LURC to also consider removing from Plum Creek’s proposal some land LURC suggests is required for conservation. After reviewing wildlife studies and natural resource maps, we identified a specific 33,500-acre parcel on which Plum Creek currently proposes to sell a conservation easement. It is to the southwest of Rockwood and is now managed for timber production. We propose that the land remain zoned for forestry, but be removed from the required conservation lands in exchange for saving Lily Bay.
These changes would provide a better balance for the people of Maine. LURC and its staff have worked hard to comprehend the magnitude of potential impacts of Plum Creek’s proposed development to the Moosehead Lake region, and they have focused on many of the details. But we believe that the approach currently under consideration, described in the Commission’s amendments posted yesterday for a 30-day public comment period, misses the big picture. It fails to strike the right balance between conservation and development, and to protect the interests of the people of Maine who will live with this decision forever.
We have read the thousands of letters sent to LURC, and it is clear to us that Maine people do not want 400 housing units on Lily Bay Peninsula. They do not want the noise and the traffic and the harm to wildlife that would accompany such development. Maine people do not want the equivalent of a new town built by Plum Creek on this location – forever damaging the area’s natural character.
The LURC Commissioners hold the fate of Lily Bay in their hands. We urge them to support this proposal to save Lily Bay by eliminating 33,500 acres from required conservation, described here today. Hundreds of people have written to LURC about the joy of camping at Lily Bay State Park, paddling the waters of Lily Bay, and exploring the quiet east side of Moosehead Lake. Our grandchildren – 50 years from now – should be given the opportunity to enjoy those same experiences.