Today, a group including North Woods landowners, foresters, a logger, a registered Maine Guide, and a planner denounced legislation that would abolish Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC), saying the bills would destroy Maine’s North Woods, the largest undeveloped forest east of the Mississippi, by rolling back 40 years of protections.
“The Governor and some members of the Legislature seem intent on rolling back 40 years of protection and throwing open Maine’s North Woods to unlimited speculative development that could ruin one of Maine’s most treasured landscapes,” says Buzz Lamb, a camp owner on Lobster Lake. “We are particularly concerned about three bills that would dismantle the Land Use Regulation Commission as it exists today, and would put in its place a system that would be more expensive, less effective, and less predictable for landowners,”
Several bills in the 2011 Maine Legislature (LD 17, LD 1258, and LD 1534) would abolish or radically weaken the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC). Opponents of the bills noted that Governor LePage earlier this year called for rezoning at least three million acres of Maine’s North Woods for development. Speakers at the press conference described the massive threat such rezoning would pose to the North Woods, and released a draft bill secured from the Department of Conservation through a Freedom of Access request that would have implemented the 3 million acre rezoning concept.
Public hearings on these issues are scheduled for Tuesday, May 17th at 1:00 p.m. in Room 206 of the Cross Office Building.
Gordon Mott, a forester and resident of Lakeville (in the unorganized territories) says, “If LURC is essentially abolished, as these bills seek to do, the last place in the eastern United States with pristine lakes, ponds, rivers, and mountains would go on the development chopping block. Placing these responsibilities in the inexperienced hands of many County Commissioners will make it more costly for land managers who will have to deal with multiple agencies. Taxes will likely increase to support the many boards and staff that will be required.”
“County governments are facing enough challenges already,” says Harry Dwyer, a forester and logger who owns Ghost Dancer Forestry. “I doubt they would be able to commit the money and staff expertise to do an adequate job enforcing regulations that have been handled reasonably well by LURC for some 40 years. If we eliminate LURC and forever fragment and develop the working forest, what will we say to our children?”
Created 40 years ago to provide public oversight of development and protect the natural heritage of the 10.4 million acres of Maine’s North Woods where there is no local government, LURC has served as an important guardian of the extraordinary qualities of Maine’s unorganized territories, said opponents of the bills.
Lisa DeHart, a registered Maine guide, says: “I am totally opposed to these proposals to dismantle LURC and transfer the responsibility for the protection of the Maine Woods to 13 under-staffed, under-funded counties. The counties absolutely do not have the resources or capacity to do careful planning, permitting, and enforcement of the broad range of activities that take place in the unorganized territories. It seems like a ruse to set the counties up for failure so they will be forced to do nothing, and corporations, and large landowners with AIG reputations can do to the Maine woods what coyotes do to a deer carcass.”
“We need to support smart economic development with the fiscally responsible planning and regulation that LURC can provide,” says Beth Della Valle, president of the Maine Association of Planners, a statewide organization of professional planners, citizen volunteers serving on local boards, attorneys, landscape architects, and developers. “Setting the stage for smart economic development requires predictable regulations and targeted investments in infrastructure, which will result in efficiencies that will attract businesses and reduce costs to governments at all levels. Transferring development planning and review to counties that do not have the staff, funds, or a statewide perspective could increase regulatory inefficiencies and costs, while forever altering Maine’s natural resource legacy and undermining its long term economic development potential.”
In 1971, after years of discussion and debate, the Maine Legislature created the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) to serve as a planning, zoning, and permitting board for the large portion of Maine that has no local government. Since then, LURC has provided an irreplaceable service by guiding development to appropriate locations, protecting ecologically important areas, keeping forests as forests, supporting Maine’s forest industry, and safeguarding remote recreation opportunities on our beautiful lakes, rivers, mountains, and forests, said opponents of the bills.
Learn more about these bad bills.
See map showing proposed 30% North Woods development.
Read the unprinted bill.
Read the fiscal note.
Read statement by Buzz Lamb, Lobster Lake camp owner.
Read statement by Beth Della Valle, Maine Association of Planners.
Take action to protect Maine’s North Woods.
Read statement by Gordon Mott, North Woods landowner and forester.