A once-in-lifetime chance to preserve a key piece of Gov. Baxter’s vision for his wilderness park is being sacrificed on the altar of special interest politics.
The current deal to preserve Katahdin Lake hinges on legislative approval because it involves the sale of 7,400 acres of public lots as part of a complicated transaction to protect 6,000 acres around the lake. The deal has been hung up on demands to preserve hunting on the parcel by one powerful sportsmans lobby and mischief-making lawmakers. The Baxter Park Authority said hunting around the lake would be inconsistent with the park’s deed.
Leaders of the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry hammered out a respectful, workable compromise: no hunting would be allowed on the 4,000 acres around the lake, but hunters would retain access to 1,900 acres to the north. The private conservation group funding the deal agreed to the compromise.
William Gardner, whose timber company owns the lake, even sweetened the deal by offering the state an option on an additional 8,000 acres.
Success looked iminent. But no victory is safe from special interest sabotage in Augusta during an election year.
Out of the woodwork popped yet another new demand: Sen. Kevin Raye, R-Perry, said the deal should be contingent on park officials’s agreeing to groom the Perimeter Road for snowmobiles in winter. Snowmobiles currently have access to the road, but it isn’t groomed.
This is a bald attempt to usurp the power of the Baxter State Park Authority, which was established to be free of legislative meddling.
Lawmakers ought to understand if this deal falls apart, there’s no putting it back together.
That means hunters can forget access to the northern parcel. And $5.5 million that would have been used to preserve hunting access in four counties vanishes, too.
If this happens, a blight of shame will rest on those responsible forever.