Environmental groups have experts lined up to testify as public hearings begin Dec. 1.
FALMOUTH — Maine’s two leading environmental groups took another swipe Thursday at Plum Creek Timber Co.’s development plan for the Moosehead Lake region as state regulators prepared for the start of long-awaited public hearings on the massive project.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine and Maine Audubon said that a dozen experts they hired to assess the project have detailed its adverse effects and will be available to testify next month before the Land Use Regulation Commission.
On Wednesday, the wilderness zoning agency set the hearing dates: Dec. 1 in Greenville, Dec. 2 in Augusta, Dec. 15 in Portland and Dec. 16 in Greenville. LURC’s decision is expected in the spring at the earliest.
“The magnitude of the potential impacts of Plum Creek’s plan remain staggering,” Brownie Carson, executive director of the Natural Resources Council, said at a news conference. “Experts in tourism, wildlife, water quality and land use planning have shown that Plum Creek’s plan would fundamentally damage what people most love about the Moosehead Lake region — its natural beauty and undeveloped character.”
Concerns raised by environmental groups included an anticipated tenfold increase in the number of visitors using the Lily Bay area and a potential drop in quality of the region’s wilderness recreational experience.
Other issues that the groups plan to bring up at the hearings are threats to fish and wildlife, including native brook trout populations. Critics also raised the prospect of a dramatic increase in accidents involving motor vehicles and moose.
Plum Creek’s project manager, Luke Muzzy, said the criticisms expressed Thursday are not new and the company has been working to address many of the concerns that have been raised.
“We have experts that will say the opposite of what their experts say,” Muzzy said.
Plum Creek has twice revised the project since it filed its first application with LURC, in April 2005. The Seattle-based company is seeking a zoning change on 420,000 acres as part of a 30-year plan to develop 975 house lots along with two resorts.
Maine Audubon and the Natural Resources Council reiterated their recommendations to scale back the project and move more of the development closer to Greenville.
“Although Plum Creek made some recent changes to its plan, regrettably they do not address potential impacts for wildlife and the character of the region,” said Kevin Carley, executive director of Maine Audubon. “The company did not drop a single house lot nor has it proposed any development in Greenville. For these reasons, our opposition remains unchanged.”