Calls PR Campaign an “Insult to Maine People”
The Natural Resources Council of Maine today criticized Seattle-based Plum Creek Real Estate Investment Corporation for conducting a massive public relations campaign in support of its development plans for the Moosehead Lake region before making the actual details of their plan public.
“Plum Creek has staged two press conferences for their plan, is airing television ads statewide, has done a massive mailing to opinion leaders, and has unleashed an army of public relations professionals and hired lobbyists across Maine to meet with journalists and legislators – yet they have not even submitted their permit application to the Land Use Regulation Commission,” said NRCM Advocacy Director Pete Didisheim.
“Although there appear to be improvements in the Plum Creek plan compared with last year’s proposal, it is impossible to fully assess the changes because the company has kept their plan secret and only released public relations materials. This is an insult to Maine people who are trying to understand how the company’s proposals for conservation and for development will affect the future of an entire region of the state of Maine,” said Didisheim.
Illustrating the confusion already being created by Plum Creek’s “media blitz,” NRCM brought attention to significant discrepancies in two maps released at Plum Creek press conferences held less than one week apart. A “Conservation Framework” map released on March 30th shows five locations in a proposed conservation easement, but these same five locations were suddenly and inexplicably left outside of the easement and slated for house lot development in the map the company released April 4th.
The specific areas are: Upper Moosehead Lake shoreline in Big W Township, Black Brook Hill Peninsula on Brassua Lake, South Shore of Indian Pond, Upper Wilson Pond, and Prong Pond. All of these are shorefront locations where Maine people have urged protection.
“Are these areas going to be conserved, or will they be developed? The public has many questions about Plum Creek’s plans, but we have no way of really understanding the answers to those questions until a permit application is submitted – which should have happened at the same time that Plum Creek went into public relations mode,” said Didisheim.
According to NRCM, Plum Creek has hired “the biggest army of lobbyists and public relations staff ever mobilized to push a development project in Maine’s unorganized territories.” Plum Creek has hired at least four Maine law firms (Eaton Peabody; PretiFlaherty; Verrill Dana, LLP; and Perkins, Thompson, Hinckley, & Keddy), and one of the state’s big public relations firms (Barton & Gingold) to promote the company’s development plan.
Plum Creek is a $5 billion Seattle-based corporation, the largest publicly-held timber Real Estate Investment Trust in the nation. “This highly sophisticated company knows exactly what it is doing in an effort to push its plan. Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission has never before faced a company of this scale, proposing such a massive rezoning of its lands. A decision on Plum Creek’s proposal must be made based on the details, but those details simply have not been released,” said Didisheim.
“And we know from the last time around that details matter a lot. When Plum Creek finally released its 570-page rezoning request last year, months after the public relations roll-out, we identified fine print details that contradicted public statements, revealed new and previously undisclosed development plans, and showed how the company would shift costs onto Maine taxpayers,” Didisheim added.
NRCM has not taken a position on Plum Creek’s new proposal, and will not do so until it can fully examine the actual permit application presented to LURC. The company is proposing the largest development ever proposed in Maine to be built on lands currently zoned for timber and backwoods recreation uses. Plum Creek purchased these lands for less than $200 an acre in 1998.