Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.
These six words capture what’s at stake for the Moosehead Lake region today.
We all know of places in Maine, and across the country, where development has ruined the unique character of those places forever. NRCM, Maine Audubon, residents of the Moosehead Lake region, and people who come from near and far to visit Moosehead Lake don’t want what is special about this place to be destroyed.
Moosehead Lake is not “Anywhere, USA.” It is has been treasured by Mainers for generations – for its unspoiled lakeshores, vast stretches of wildlife habitat, and breath-taking scenery. There is no place like it.
That is why Maine people have raised our voices about the potential impacts of Plum Creek’s massive development for the Moosehead Lake region – the largest proposed development in Maine’s history. And that is why today, NRCM is filing a petition with the Land Use Regulation Commission, stating our opposition to the Plum Creek proposal.
LURC and Maine people have only one chance to get it right. Seattle-based Plum Creek will come and go, but the people of Maine will live with the decisions made in this rezoning process forever. This decision also will set an important precedent for other large-scale development proposals throughout Maine’s North Woods.
It is important to remember that Plum Creek, which has transformed itself from a timber company to a real estate investment trust since buying land in Maine, purchased its Maine land in 1998, knowing that it was zoned for forestry, not development. This $5 billion company paid less than $200 per acre for the land, and now wants LURC to change the rules.
Because of Moosehead’s special character and the importance of LURC’s decision, we carefully analyzed the details of Plum Creek’s latest proposal, more than 1,000 pages long. We have coordinated our work with Maine Audubon and continue to listen to people who live in the Moosehead Lake region and across the state. We have deliberately stepped back to ask ourselves: Has Plum Creek made essential changes to its proposal to protect what is unique about the Moosehead Lake region, while also providing an opportunity for sustainable economic development for local people?
The answer is, “No.” Plum Creek’s plan still proposes too much development, and it would cause too much harm to the character and special qualities of the Moosehead Lake region. For these reasons, we oppose the Plum Creek plan now before LURC.
In response to pressure from those who know and love Moosehead, Plum Creek has made some changes in the right direction. The company removed proposed house lots from some of the remote areas that were totally inappropriate for development. The company clearly got the message about those portions of its plan, but other parts still raise serious concerns. We see these specific problem areas:
First, Development of a Resort at Lily Bay, and the Magnitude of the Moose Mountain Resort – We continue to believe that the proposed resort at Lily Bay and the associated subdivision developments would permanently damage the unspoiled, natural character of the east side of Moosehead Lake, and would harm wildlife populations and important habitat. In addition, we believe that the amount of development at the proposed Moose Mountain resort goes far beyond the environmental capacity of that area.
Second, the Location of Some Proposed House Lots – We have strong objections about some of the specific areas Plum Creek wants to have rezoned. For example, we believe that house lots on the undeveloped north shore of Long Pond and the proposed locations of lots on the ecologically sensitive Burnham Pond are unacceptable.
Third, the Intensity of Development – The total amount of development remains staggering. Although the plan is described as having 975 house lots, Maine people and the Land Use Regulation Commission need to recognize that the actual number of new accommodations could be more than 2,300 once you add in all the resort units and other forms of house lots in the plan. Compare that to Greenville now, which currently has only 1,200 existing structures. Rockwood has about 380.
To put it in perspective, Plum Creek’s proposal can be likened to adding the equivalent of two new towns’ worth of development north of Greenville. In addition, too much of the proposed commercial development is spread out from existing communities, and we are concerned about the harm it would do to locally owned businesses.
Fourth, Provisions of the Conservation Easement – We have found major loopholes and weaknesses in the conservation easement that covers the balance easement required by LURC, and the easements on lands that are part of the company’s proposed $35 million conservation deal. For example, mining, road building, and unsustainable logging would be allowed. These loopholes need to be fixed to ensure real protection for the forest.
We must not make mistakes today that we will regret tomorrow. We do not want future residents and visitors to the Moosehead Lake region to wonder why the special character of the area was not protected.
NRCM has no choice but to continue to oppose Plum Creek’s development scheme, and we will remain opposed unless Plum Creek truly addresses the concerns expressed by Maine people.
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. It is our responsibility to pass on to our children and grandchildren a Moosehead Lake that retains the special qualities that are so cherished today.