Photo by: Steve Horne

Maine Woods Coalition unanimously rejects Forest Scheme

Thursday, August 12, 2010

MAINE - A broadly based coalition of municipal and county officials, private citizens, and businesses has voted unanimously to decline an invitation to join the Keeping Maine's Forests Steering Committee. KMF is part of the Great Maine Forest Initiative and is composed of state employees, environmental groups, and several others. They seek to place large scale conservation easements and purchase other parcels throughout the northern working forest of Maine with a hoped-for $25 million federal grant.

Maine Woods Coalition chairwoman Anne Mitchell noted, “This plan is merely a rewrite of earlier attempts to gain control of forest land in northern Maine. Their report is mostly completed and their late invitation for our coalition to join is a frail attempt to get after-the-fact “buy in” into a very undesirable and costly proposal. It will not help our State move forward and will potentially cost jobs and reduce recreational opportunities. The plan was secretly developed over the past year mostly by special interests who continue to oppose the interests of the private landowners that have successfully maintained this working forest for over 400 years. We are not fooled by this latest scheme and we will continue to vigorously oppose it.”

The Maine Woods Coalition was founded in 2001 to promote economic development in the northern four counties of the State, namely, Aroostook, Penobscot, Piscataquis, and Somerset. Its second purpose is to oppose the creation of a new Maine Woods National Park. “The Coalition recognizes that several of the environmental groups involved in this effort are also advocates for such a new federal park and/or to lock up the Maine forest and that gives us further cause and urgency to oppose this plan,” Mitchell added.

Conservation easements negotiated over the last several years generally are designed to last forever and limit uses to those currently in place at the time the easement is negotiated. They generally forbid any new development beyond what is there at inception and this is another reason for Coalition opposition. “No one can predict what our needs will be in 25, 50, or 100 years. These easements lock us into the way things are today, not what we may need years from now,” said Mitchell. “In essence, they are trying to fix what is not broken and they finance these very restrictive easements on the back of taxpayers who end up funding most of them.”

Governor Percival Baxter, who personally bought all the land that later became Baxter State Park, was always leery of the federal government. According to the book Legacy of a Lifetime: The Story of Baxter State Park, “Baxter was no fan of federal involvement in state affairs…He didn't trust the national park process, having witnessed too many times how governments could change the rules of the game…” “We agree,” Mitchell added.