BANGOR, Maine — Maine’s leading environmental organization on Tuesday released a development proposal for the Moosehead Lake region that would keep construction near towns and cut in half the number of housing lots proposed by Plum Creek Timber Co.
The Council’s proposal calls for up to 450 housing lots, which is less than half the total in Plum Creek’s original proposal. It also would ensure permanent conservation of woodlands instead of 30-year conservation easements proposed by Plum Creek.
The proposal also features a Maine Woods lodge and recreation area to be built near Big Squaw ski resort that could serve as a tourism hub.
“This Moosehead vision would protect the working forest, conserve wildlife and natural areas, enhance recreational opportunities, and ensure public access,” said Brownie Carson, the environmental group’s executive director.
Plum Creek’s original, oft-criticized plan called for rezoning land around the lake for 975 house lots and campgrounds, along with two resorts. The total project involved 426,000 acres, about 10,000 of which would actually be developed.
The environmental group’s proposal, which was unveiled at a news conference at Bangor City Hall, is being offered as a concept “for interested parties to consider, evaluate and improve upon,” Carson said in a statement.
Some of the proposed changes are already under review by Plum Creek.
Regional General Manager Jim Lehner announced in December that Plum Creek was taking a “fresh look” at its proposal. Among the changes under consideration: relocating one proposed resort, scaling back another one and clustering homes closer to Greenville.
Plum Creek is also trying to identify ways to ensure that roughly 400,000 acres of woodlands will remain forested after the expiration of a 30-year conservation easement, he said.
Plum Creek’s original proposal for reshaping the state’s famed North Woods has aroused passions both in support and against it.
Supporters describe the project as a thoughtful blend of conservation and development that preserves access to private timberlands for fishing, hunting, hiking and snowmobiling.
But critics have denounced the project as an opening for wilderness sprawl that would threaten the character of an area they regard as the heart and soul of Maine.
Liz Munster, a Rockwood native and a real estate broker, said the problem with the original proposal was that it’s too much, and in the wrong places.
“There is room for some growth in Rockwood, but not great big resorts that would change the atmosphere and character and hurt the fishing, hunting and the life of those who live here year-round,” she said in a statement.