Largest Fine for Logging Law Violations in Maine History and Widespread Damage to Deer Wintering Habitat
NRCM news release
Documents gathered using Maine’s Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) disclose that this year Plum Creek was charged a $57,000 fine — the largest fine ever assessed in history for breaking Maine’s timber harvesting laws. Other documents included in an investigation by the Natural Resources Council of Maine reveal that Plum Creek has destroyed wildlife habitat across its ownership in Maine that state biologists identified as priority areas for deer to survive Maine’s harsh winters. State documents also show that Plum Creek has polluted streams and developed land without a permit. This information was gathered through a FOAA investigation conducted by the Natural Resources Council of Maine, utilizing documents gathered from several state agencies.
“Plum Creek claims to be practicing sustainable forestry and acting as a good corporate citizen in Maine, but that’s not the picture that emerges from our investigation of internal documents,” said Cathy Johnson, North Woods Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Quite the contrary, our investigation shows that Plum Creek has been willing to break Maine’s forestry laws, destroy wildlife habitat, and ignore repeated requests of biologists from Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.”
A Republican congressman from Washington State once called Plum Creek Timber Company “Darth Vader,” because of its aggressive logging practices, but the company has claimed that it has improved its forestry practices since that time.
“Actions speak louder than words,” said Johnson, “and Plum Creek’s actions in Maine are deeply troubling. A company that receives the largest penalty for violating Maine’s timber laws does not jump to the top of anyone’s list of good corporate citizens.”
NRCM’s investigation uncovered internal staff memoranda and e-mails in which agency staff expressed deep concerns and alarm about Plum Creek’s timber practices. Examples include:
• A LURC staffer expressed disbelief that a large and sophisticated company like Plum Creek would build a 7,500’ powerline corridor, without applying for a permit: “I would like to know more about the circumstances under which they ‘forgot’ to get a permit.”
• A Maine Forest Service employee said in an e-mail that he had a CD-ROM full of pictures of Plum Creek’s violations of water quality laws – the highest concentration of them he had ever seen; and
• A Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologist described Plum Creek’s “feeble and dismal history to protect deer wintering areas. Probably the worse [sic] record of any major landowner in the State.”
“These documents make for troubling reading, because they show the outrage felt by state agency employees and biologists over how Plum Creek has been managing their land,” said Johnson.
“I’ve seen first hand what happens when deer yards are wiped out,” said Gil Gilpatrick, a deer hunter and Maine Guide with a camp in Little Moose township. “The protection of deer wintering areas is key to the future of hunting and guiding in Northern Maine. By systematically destroying so many critical deer yards, Plum Creek is putting the future of hunting and guiding in the North Woods at risk.”
One IF&W e-mail contained the following dispirited commentary: “By the time each of you read this short email another important patch of DWA [deer wintering area] shelter in Region E [the Moosehead Lake Region] will probably be on the ground.”
Plum Creek purchased more than 900,000 acres in Maine in 1998, and claimed at the time – and repeatedly since – that the company would practice sustainable forestry in Maine and be a good corporate citizen. Over the past eight years, however, NRCM has heard from loggers, registered Maine guides, property owners, camp owners, and hunters that Plum Creek has logged in a very aggressive fashion – which some believed was destroying important wildlife habitat and possibly violating Maine’s laws for protecting our forests and environment.
NRCM conducted its review of internal documents about Plum Creek’s practices under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act. NRCM reviewed files relating to Plum Creek at the Maine Forest Service, Land Use Regulation Commission, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).