Natural Resources Council of Maine and Maine Audubon Propose Specific Changes to Plum Creek’s Moosehead Plan
Maine’s two leading environmental organizations said today that the Lily Bay peninsula on the eastern side of Moosehead Lake should be “completely off-limits” to development—even if that means reducing the amount of conservation land on the lake’s western side by 33,500 acres as part of Plum Creek’s massive proposed rezoning application currently being considered by Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC).
The executive directors of Maine Audubon and the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) spoke at joint news conferences in Bangor and Falmouth. They said public comments and scientific data included in the hearing record on Plum Creek’s application demonstrate that Lily Bay’s unique natural characteristics and importance to wildlife and recreation make this vast, peaceful, forested peninsula north of Greenville inappropriate for any resort, commercial development, or housing subdivisions.
The groups vowed to oppose development on Lily Bay with whatever means are necessary.
A Real Estate Investment Trust based in Seattle, Plum Creek is the nation’s largest commercial landowner. Included in the range of development it has proposed for the Moosehead region is a level of construction at Lily Bay that LURC staff acknowledge is comparable to building a new Maine town the size of Troy, Perry, or St. Agatha.
LURC cannot approve a plan such as Plum Creek’s unless the combination of development and conservation it contains achieves a “publicly beneficial balance.”
“Lily Bay has got to be off the table,” said NRCM Executive Director Brownie Carson. “There’s no way to achieve a balance that benefits the public if Plum Creek is allowed to build a resort, housing subdivisions, stores, roads, a golf course, and a marina in an area Maine people have said over and again they want protected from development.”
“This level of development would forever change the experience of the eastern side of Moosehead Lake, where Lily Bay State Park stands as a premier destination for peaceful and affordable recreation by Maine people. The natural and undeveloped character here would be lost forever if this development were to go forward,” said Carson.
Specifically, Maine Audubon and NRCM have identified a 33,500 acre parcel of land on which Plum Creek currently proposes to sell conservation easements to the Nature Conservancy. Audubon and NRCM will submit information to LURC about the potential trade-off during the 30-day public comment period on the Plum Creek proposal that ends July 11.
“There is a logical way to protect Lily Bay by eliminating proposed development on the peninsula on the one hand and reducing the overall amount of conservation land being looked at as required conservation balance on the other,” said Maine Audubon Executive Director Kevin Carley.
“Lily Bay peninsula is known for Canada lynx sightings, and it has significant bird, wildlife, and brook trout habitat,” Carley added. “Local wildlife is one reason Lily Bay State Park stands as a premier destination for peaceful, affordable recreation by Maine people. Traffic connected to hundreds of housing units on Lily Bay would cause a dramatic increase in the number of animals killed along the entire east side of Moosehead Lake.”
At today’s press conferences, NRCM and Maine Audubon read excerpts from letters to LURC that raise concerns about the proposed development at Lily Bay. By its March 14 deadline earlier this year, LURC received more than 2,500 comments opposing Plum Creek’s plan, while fewer than 100 letters were received in support of it.
Plum Creek purchased about a million acres of forestland in Maine – including the land at Lily Bay – for just $200 an acre in 1998, because it is zoned only for forestry and backcountry recreation uses, not development. In 2005, the company announced its proposal for rezoning more than 400,000 acres to allow Maine’s largest development. Its proposal currently calls for more than 2,000 units for resort areas, housing subdivisions, and commercial developments.
In late May, LURC staff and consultants recommended changes in Plum Creek’s plan, including a reduction in the number of acres to be developed at Lily Bay, but no reduction of the number of houses there (404) or type of development that would be allowed (e.g., a resort, marina, golf course, stores, single family dwellings, and roads).
“We ask LURC to heed the strong, consistent voices of Maine people, visitors, and residents of the Moosehead Lake region who are calling on you to protect Lily Bay,” Carson said. “We are putting on the table a solid proposal for changing both the development side and the conservation side of this equation, with the goal of reaching an outcome that provides a better balance for the people of Maine.”
“In February, when I was snowshoeing on Lily Bay peninsula, it was an incredible thrill to come across a set of fresh Canada Lynx tracks in the snow. I think people deserve to experience that same thrill in the future,” said Sheila Kelley of Beaver Cove. “Lily Bay State Park enjoys a constant stream of visitors from all over Maine and the world, providing a healthy, affordable outdoor experience for many who could not otherwise afford to enjoy the shores of Moosehead Lake and its wonderful woods and wildlife. Just north of this Park sits the land where Plum Creek has 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, and to the critical habitat for endangered Canada Lynx.
“Moosehead Lake’s East shore is uniquely special in many ways, and Lily Bay is its crown jewel,” said Ruth McLaughlin of Greenville, co-owner of Blair Hill Inn. “Lily Bay Road leads to the Golden Road which connects this beautiful region to Baxter State Park. This corridor has offered some of the best ‘moose sighting’ opportunities for our guests and for the Maine Guides who often take them. Lily Bay State Park offers our guests one of the only tranquil, public beaches on Moosehead Lake. Our guests love how quiet and undisturbed Lily Bay is and they come here to walk her shores and sit at the water’s edge.
“A gated community/resort complete with a marina, golf course and 404 house lots, as proposed by Plum Creek would forever alter this Maine treasure,” McLaughlin added. “I hope and pray that the LURC commissioners will really consider preserving the Lily Bay corridor for generations to come.”