A state office building was locked down for several hours and several protesters arrested Monday in the latest flare-up over Plum Creek’s controversial development plan for the Moosehead Lake region.
Four members of the group Maine Earth First! chained themselves together using U-shaped bicycle locks wrapped around their necks in the hallway of the Land Use Regulation Commission office in Augusta.
The four protesters and other members of Earth First! also disrupted work in the office building by chanting, blowing horns and stomping on the ground. Group members refused to leave the office corridor and demanded a meeting with LURC staff.
Earth First! and other groups are upset with LURC’s tentative endorsement of an amended plan that would allow Plum Creek to rezone land for 975 house lots and two resorts near Moosehead. The commission is expected to vote Wednesday on a list of recommended changes that would be necessary for Plum Creek to receive LURC approval for the concept plan.
Officers from the state police, capitol police and other agencies eventually arrested the four after they refused to unlock themselves and leave.
The four have been charged with trespassing and were still being held Monday evening at the Kennebec County Jail in Augusta because they refused to give their names to police.
Other Earth First! members later identified the four to the media as Emily Paine, Meg Gilmartin, Kyla Hersey-Wilson and Megan Wilson.
In a statement, Department of Conservation Commissioner Patrick McGowan acknowledged that Plum Creek’s proposal has generated intense emotions on both sides. McGowan, whose department oversees the agency, said LURC’s public review allowed all views to be aired.
“This protest was not a helpful way to bring forward differing opinions,” McGowan said.
But Earth First! member Logan Perkins said the protesters felt they needed to “go direct and demand to be heard” after the commission tentatively endorsed Plum Creek’s proposal despite significant public outcry, especially over development on Lily Bay.
“Differing opinions have been brought forth in a whole variety of ways in the past year … and the public has not been heard,” Perkins said.
Earth First! members plan to meet with LURC director Catherine Carroll today.