A Maine Sportsman Speaks Out on Plum Creek

Well, here’s a Downeast sportsman who doesn’t think Plum Creek’s suburbanization of the Northern Forest is a “sugar plum” for hunters and anglers. His name is Jon Lund, former attorney general for the State of Maine and publisher of *The Maine Sportsman*--New England’s biggest outdoor publication. Lund, by the way, is the guy who almost single-handedly got the pulp logs off Maine’s rivers and lakes. He’s also one of the best brook-trout anglers I have ever fished with. Jon’s Jottings, the *Maine Sportsman*, Nov. 2005 By Jon Lund Just say “NO” to Plum Creek Our readers who are interested in doings in the north woods will want to read Doug Rooks’ nicely balanced column concerning Plum Creek’s development proposal before the Land Use Regulatory Commission (LURC) and the mild editorial on the same subject penned by the editor. At least, it seems mild to this writer, compared to the strong hand at the editorial pen frequently wielded by Mr. Vanderweide. In the interest of full disclosure, it should be pointed out that this writer was among the several petitioners who asked LURC to hold a rule-making aimed at declaring a moratorium on large-scale developments in this area to give LURC breathing space to formulate a new plan for the region. LURC voted ”No” on May 4 on our petition despite the fact that several years ago, LURC itself had declared it needed to develop a new plan for the Moosehead region. It seems unfortunate that LURC denied our petition without even having a serious discussion of the benefits of developing a new plan for the Moosehead area rather than start with Plum Creek’s plan and trim it to fit. But that is how LURC is doing it. The fact is that the proposal calls for the development of 975 house lots consisting of 575 shore lots on Moosehead and other lakes and 400 back lots. That doesn’t include the number of house lots that may be included in the resort developments. My concern is that the focus will be on the details of the proposal, losing sight of the impact of such massive scale of development on a remote area. Hunting Fragmentation A lot of attention has been paid lately to the impact on wildlife of fragmentation of wildlife habitat, but not much has been said about the effect of habitat fragmentation (also known as sprawl) on hunting. Those of us who have hunted locally over the years have seen it, though. I used to hunt partridge, rabbits and pheasants in land now occupied by the Central Maine Power Company’s service building off Outer Winthrop Street in Augusta. I used to hunt crows on Daggett’s Farm, which is now Westwood development. Today, perhaps you could bow-hunt near there. Most of the abandoned farmlands near Augusta where I used to hunt birds, are now house lots or posted land. As most of us are aware, the penalty for hunting on posted land includes loss of license. Often, today, back lot lines are not well marked. When a hunter is tracking a deer or a moose, or pursuing wounded game, animals are no respecters of property lines. Hunt moose amidst a checkerboard of “No Trespassing “ signs? Forget about it. As you will read elsewhere in this publication, the Directors of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine are concerned about continued access to the land proposed for development by Plum Creek. Not to worry. The answer is clear. Potential buyers of house lots at fancy prices are not going to buy if the unwashed public has guaranteed access to their land. No-longer Remote Ponds One of the rare features of the north woods is their remote ponds, where few or no structures are evident. On some ponds, PC proposes protection for only part of the pond; On others, no protection is offered beyond a 500 foot protected strip. It would seem that a remote pond which is within easy reach of large numbers of seasonal homes would be remote in name only, at best, a crowded place to practice your fly-casting. We should note that this proposal involves less than half of Plum Creek’s holdings in Maine. Other landowners are waiting in the wings and what happens in the Moosehead region is likely to be a pattern for other remote areas of the state. A glaring omission in the economic planning of this state is that apparently, we have no handle on the economic value of the hunting and fishing and tourist activities in the north woods. At the beginning, due in large part to the skilful advance work done by PC’s consultants, local support for the project was voiced. Then, as detains emerged and people began to visualize the massive scale of the development, they had second thoughts. As guides, outfitters and sporting camps study the details of this proposal , they have raised concerns about the adverse impact on their operations of loss of the wilderness character of the north woods. In my humble opinion, approval of PC ‘s plan would mark the beginning of a serious degradation of the hunting and fishing experience in northern Maine. The change would be detrimental to the future of the Greenville area, as well as the whole state. Reagan Solution In all of the discussion about the details the Plum Creek proposal, we are in danger of losing sight of a basic element of their proposal: PC is asking for a zoning change to accommodate their plan. No one is entitled to a zoning change as a matter of right. LURC could take a page from the drug abuse solution favored by former First Lady Nancy Reagan: ”Just say no.” This would put the burden on Plum Creek to come back with a more reasonable plan, and one that would preserve the remote quality that makes the Moosehead a state symbol .