By John Richardson, Portland Press Herald Writer
Plum Creek Timber Co. has yet to submit a formal plan to the state for developing and conserving land around Moosehead Lake, but it has begun promoting the plan’s benefits. The company is following a pair of major announcements with TV ads touting the proposal.
The public relations campaign doesn’t set well with the Natural Resources Council of Maine, which said Friday the Seattle-based landowner is creating confusion and should let Mainers see the details.
Plum Creek plans to formally submit its proposal to the Land Use Regulation Commission next week, said Jim Lehner, the company’s general manager for the northeast region.
The revised plan will arrive about a year after the filing of an original plan that met with strong public resistance. This time, however, the official filing will come after a carefully managed rollout by the company and its team of consultants.
Last week, Plum Creek and three nonprofit organizations held a press conference to unveil a 400,000-acre conser- vation agreement covering much of the Moosehead area.
The deal includes the conservation piece of Plum Creek’s development plan – donating future development rights on 71,000 acres of forest east of Moosehead. The company would be paid for giving up the ability to develop the rest of the land.
Last Tuesday, Plum Creek held a second news conference and unveiled the other core elements of its plan – 975 house lots, two resorts and world-class Nordic ski center. It released a new economic impact report and brought local supporters to speak with media.
After that news conference, as company officials began presenting their plans around the state, the company broadcast a TV ad featuring a Greenville native and company manager talking about the long-term benefits for the region. Lehner said Friday the company has two other ads that it will air in the future.
Pete Didisheim of the Natural Resources Council of Maine said the company is rolling out the plan “like it’s a referendum or a political campaign.”>/p>
He said the preliminary information shown by Plum Creek is confusing Mainers.
Also, the conservation groups that negotiated the conservation deal were at least partly behind the decision to announce that part of the plan before unveiling the development piece. They have said they didn’t want people to think they endorse the whole development project.
But to Didisheim, whose group wasn’t involved in the conservation deal, it shows why the company should simply release its detailed plan first and sell it after.
“They haven’t even submitted their application yet,” he said. “It substantially disadvantages the people of Maine who are trying to figure out how Plum Creek’s development can affect an entire region of the state.”>/p>