Last week, the Natural Resources Council of Maine publicized stunning documents detailing forestry mismanagement and violations by Plum Creek. The Seattle-based company was assailed for aggressive logging that imperiled wildlife habitats, specifically deer wintering areas, across its sprawling land holdings in Maine.
Individually, the violations seem minor. But as NRCM correctly notes, the breadth of the transgressions — and the company’s unprecedented $57,000 fine — overshadow Plum Creek’s professed dedication to the Maine landscape it wishes to market to tourists and vacation homeowners.
Plum Creek’s subdivision and resort plans around Moosehead Lake have the potential to inject economic vitality into northern Maine. The region has attracted sportsmen and rusticators for decades, and the proposed development could merely be the evolution of Moosehead’s traditional economy.
And, as we’ve said before, it’s Plum Creek’s land to do with what it wants.
But it’s disingenuous for the company to speak about its environmental record while secreting a miserable sheaf of forestry violations. Plum Creek’s plans for 975 homes and two resorts around Moosehead already faced a stiff review, even before this news.
LURC officials on Tuesday said there are questions about the development’s impact on public services, such as fire protection and waste disposal, according to the Bangor Daily News.
Evan Richert, a LURC consultant, asked whether the development is “buyer beware” because of its impact on services, the paper reported. It’s a worthy question, as many rural Maine towns are likely unprepared to adapt to such a massive development.
Now, with the release of the forestry records, it must be asked whether Plum Creek will act in the community’s best interest. In memo after memo released by NRCM, state biologists goggled at the company’s behavior.
“(Plum Creek) has done a very good job when required by LURC regulations. When requested to do something voluntarily, it has been a different story,” one memo stated. “It is…unwise to enter into any agreement (with Plum Creek) without a signed agreement by both parties.”
Plum Creek has acted favorably in its dealings with environmental groups. It’s effort to conserve 400,000 acres around Moosehead Lake – the nation’s second largest conservation easement – is laudable, as was the shrinking of its initial proposal, which contained a golf course and marina.
But the concerns raised by the NRCM and wildlife biologists cannot be ignored. Plum Creek’s poor record of forestry management must weigh heavily on the review of its plans, as the violations prove the company can speak one way, but act much differently.