Updated: Next Meeting at 1 PM on Thursday, Februrary 20 at the Cross Building, Room 214, in Augusta
by Christine Parrish
The Free Press news story
As part of a long-term effort to consolidate state land holdings, the state proposes to buy, sell, or swap several parcels of Maine Public Land, including approximately 6,000 acres near the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, the state’s only nationally designated Wild and Scenic River.
The state does not own 6,000 acres near the Allagash outright; instead, they jointly own approximately 24,000 acres of forest land that borders both sides of the waterway with Clayton Lake Woodlands, who holds a 75-percent share in the property.
Officials within the Bureau of Parks and Lands propose to swap the state’s 25-percent Allagash share of ownership in Township 12 (T12 R13 WELS) in exchange for 100-percent ownership of 6,000 acres of timberland that Clayton Lake Woodlands owns in Township 11 (T11 R10 WELS).
The state has another option, Cathy Johnson from the Natural Resources Council of Maine told the legislative committee that oversees Maine Public Lands at a public hearing on Tuesday.
Johnson suggested the state could seek 100-percent ownership of 6,000 acres on both sides of the Allagash, while also protecting Chemquasabamticook Stream, an important tributary into the Allagash and the area around Cunliffe Lake, a headwater lake for the Allagash River.
“Rather than trade away the State’s interest in this township, which has timber, public access, recreation, and ecological value, for land in Township 11 Range 10 WELS that has no apparent public value other than timber value, the State should work with the landowner to partition out the State’s interest,” Johnson told the committee.
Outright ownership in and around the Allagash would provide additional public value by widening the 500-foot buffer strip that exists and protecting important features in the watershed, said Johnson.
If Clayton Lake Woodlands does not want to divide out the state’s 25-percent ownership, the state can pursue a legal process called partitioning to negotiate and determine who owns which piece of ground.
The bill (LD 1789) with the proposed Allagash sale also includes sales of eight state-owned camp lots on Richardson Pond, the divestiture of Halfway Rock lighthouse in Casco Bay, swapping partial ownership in some lands for full ownership of other lands owned by Prentiss and Carlisle timber company in the Scopan Lake area in Aroostook County, and more.
Sen. Tom Saviello, a forester from Franklin County who sits on the Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committee, was not content with an assurance from the Bureau that the land swaps would result in the state ending up with land with good timber value. He asked for specifics on value of timber, road conditions and boundary lines.
Another item in the bill that will get more scrutiny in the work session ahead is the desire by the Bureau of Parks and Lands to transfer authority over public lands lease agreements from the Legislature to the Bureau.
The Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation Committee work session for LD 1789 has not yet been scheduled. It will likely be next week.