Environmental Groups and Moosehead Area Residents Oppose the Company’s Latest Plan
AUGUSTA, June 18, 2007—Today, Maine’s two leading environmental organizations are filing to intervene to oppose Plum Creek’s latest development proposal for the Moosehead Lake region.
At press conferences in Bangor and Portland today, the executive directors of Maine Audubon and the Natural Resources Council of Maine said that the latest changes to Plum Creek’s massive rezoning and development proposal for the Moosehead Lake region are not enough to prevent destruction of the region’s beautiful natural character and important wildlife habitat.
Seattle-based Plum Creek, a Real Estate Investment Trust and the largest private landowner in the nation, has petitioned Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) to rezone 408,000 acres around Moosehead Lake to make way for development that now includes 2,315 new housing units, including 975 house lots, a 4,446-acre resort near Big Moose Mountain and a 777-acre resort on Lily Bay.
Beneath a banner that read: “Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever,” the two organizations explained why they oppose Plum Creek’s plan in its current form: although the company removed development from some inappropriate areas, the plan still includes too much development, and in the wrong places, even after some development was removed from remote areas.
Also of note is that the current proposal expands the number of housing units and amount of land zoned for development that the company originally proposed.
“Despite changes, Plum Creek’s current plan still threatens Maine wildlife and habitat to a degree that’s unacceptable,” said Kevin Carley, executive director of Maine Audubon. “What we need to see is a plan that ensures the region’s wildlife will remain a vital part of the Moosehead experience. To accept anything less would be irresponsible.”
Wildlife watching and recreation is already over a $1 billion industry in Maine that involves 53 percent of residents and far exceeds economic output of other recreation industries like downhill skiing, snowmobiling and white water rafting. Across the nation, wildlife-watching is growing rapidly as a tourism driver.
“Maine has one chance to get it right for Moosehead. This is our heritage, a special place we have inherited from those who came before us,” said Brownie Carson, executive director, Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Seattle-based Plum Creek will come and go, but the people of Maine will live with the decisions made in this rezoning process forever. We will not sit idly by and allow the company to destroy what people love about Maine’s beautiful Moosehead region.”
“This proposal is spread across high-value habitat for the threatened Canada lynx and songbirds, and will permanently degrade and destroy it,” said Jody Jones, Maine Audubon wildlife ecologist. “It also does not ensure protection of new bald eagle or common loon nests, and could degrade water quality for signature species of the Moosehead region, such as brook trout.”
Moosehead Lake Region residents also continue to oppose Plum Creek’s massive plan.
Liz Munster, Real Estate Broker, Rockwood:
“I grew up in the village of Rockwood and run my real estate business here now. People choose to live here because of its atmosphere and character. There is room for some development in Rockwood, but development on the scale proposed by Plum Creek would completely change what makes Rockwood a great place to live.”
Pricilla Thorne, Camp Owner, Sandbar Tract on Moosehead Lake: “I’ve been coming to Moosehead Lake for 75 years with my family. We realize that change is coming to the region, but what is being proposed by Plum Creek is far too much. We need to protect what makes this place special.”
Bob Guethlen, Tomhegan Township: “Remote and unspoiled places like Lily Bay peninsula and the north shore of Long Pond should never be developed. These places are the frontier of Maine’s vast North Woods – the largest undeveloped place east of the Mississippi. They are currently zoned for primitive recreation and timber harvesting and the rules should not be changed to allow development to ruin their wild character.”
Over the past two months, staff members at the Natural Resources Council of Maine and Maine Audubon have carefully evaluated Plum Creek’s more than 1,000-page revised proposal. Staff members have met with many residents of the Moosehead Lake region to discuss the plan, and conducted site visits to almost every single location the company seeks to develop.
NRCM also hired a land use planning firm to create an alternative plan for the Moosehead Lake region, one that includes a broad conservation strategy to protect the area’s most precious asset – its special natural areas – while planning for measured development complements, rather than swamps, local communities: 300-450 carefully located house lots in five locations near Greenville and Rockwood, and a Maine Woods Lodge and recreation area that could serve as a hub for nature-based tourism.
Plum Creek, a Seattle-based Real Estate Investment Corporation with $5 billion in assets, purchased its Maine land in 1998, knowing that it was zoned for forestry uses, not development, and taxed at the subsidized tree growth tax rate. The company paid less than $200 per acre for the land, and approval of the largest rezoning in Maine history would allow Plum Creek to maximize profits through real estate sales.