Fish River Lakes and Maine Wildlife
If you ask anyone who has visited the Fish River Chain of Lakes, you’ll learn that it isn’t uncommon to see Bald Eagles, moose, deer, partridges, lynx, or bobcats. The Lakes themselves, a gem in the woods of Aroostook County, are home to landlocked salmon and wild brook trout.
Irving's Development Proposal
In June 2017, Canadian conglomerate J.D. Irving Ltd. filed a proposal to rezone more than 51,000 acres of its lands near the Fish River Lakes. This proposal, called a concept plan, is the second largest rezoning application in Maine’s history.
Irving’s concept plan would allow development of 330 new homes on Long, Cross, and Square Lakes, including a massive resort zone on Square Lake—the most pristine and undeveloped lake in the entire region. Highly visible homes could be constructed on hillsides on the south end of Cross Lake, irreversibly tarnishing the lake’s scenic beauty. Runoff from residential, commercial, and industrial development zones near Long, Mud, and Cross Lakes would flow towards the lakes, compromising lake water quality and putting pressure on nearby public lands, brooks, and fish and wildlife.
The Fish River Chain of Lakes lies in Maine’s Unorganized Territory where there are no local governments, so the Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) is the planning board responsible for reviewing this large-scale and long-term rezoning proposal.
LUPC rules require concept plans to balance conservation and development. Unfortunately, Irving’s concept plan does not include adequate conserved land to counterbalance such large-scale development. Irving’s concept plan would only place a conservation easement to prevent future development on 29% of the plan area. The most recent concept plan considered by LUPC, Plum Creek’s Moosehead proposal, permanently conserved more than 95 percent of its plan area through an easement.
Why We are Involved
Irving’s Fish River Lakes concept plan will set a precedent for future rezoning projects in the North Woods, and the Natural Resources Council of Maine is intervening in this process to examine the facts and raise our concerns. An economically and environmentally responsible concept plan should promote quality conservation, protect the natural resources and character of remote lakes like Square, and safeguard the beauty, history, environment, and wildlife of the Fish River Lakes region.
As an intervener in the review process, NRCM testified in opposition to Irving’s concept plan at the Land Use Planning Commission’s (LUPC) hearing in Caribou from May 22 to 24. Community members spoke out overwhelmingly against Irving’s proposal.
What You Can Do
The Land Use Planning Commission is accepting comments from the public until June 22, 2018. Please send your comments to Tim Beaucage, LUPC Senior Planner, at Timothy.Beaucage@maine.gov. If you have questions about Irving’s Fish River Chain of Lakes concept plan, you can contact Carly Peruccio, NRCM Forests & Wildlife Outreach Coordinator, at email@example.com or (207) 430-0118.