AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Audubon will not appeal state regulators’ approval of the Plum Creek development proposal for Moosehead Lake but plans to push for policy changes to address what the group said were flaws in the review process.
Two other organizations — RESTORE: The North Woods and the Forest Ecology Network — still plan to appeal the Plum Creek decision.
Last week, the Land Use Regulation Commission granted Plum Creek’s request to rezone land for 975 house lots and two large resorts in the Moosehead region. The controversial vote came more than four years after Plum Creek went public with the largest development proposal in state history.
Earlier this week, Maine Audubon’s board of trustees voted unanimously not to appeal LURC’s decision to Superior Court. The organization plans to stay involved as Plum Creek seeks individual permits from LURC to begin implementing aspects of the 30-year development plan.
Instead, Maine Audubon will focus on policy issues that arose during the review. Most notably, the group is concerned about a possible precedent set by LURC’s inclusion of conservation deals negotiated separately by Plum Creek, much of which was incorporated into the permit.
Under the terms of the permit, Plum Creek is required to permanently protect roughly 400,000 acres in the region in order to proceed with any portion of the development plan.
But Maine Audubon and other groups object to the fact that Plum Creek stands to be paid more than $20 million for portions of those conservation deals. LURC’s permit requires the conservation to be completed regardless of whether Plum Creek is compensated.
“While we are disappointed that LURC has approved a plan from Plum Creek that we believe is not in the best interests of the people and valuable natural assets of Maine, we are moving forward energetically to initiate public discussion of the policy and process failures of the decision,” Maine Audubon executive director Ted Koffman said in a statement.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine, which worked closely with Maine Audubon throughout the LURC process, has not decided whether to appeal.
But Jym St. Pierre with RESTORE: The North Woods said Thursday that his group and the Forest Ecology Network plan to file their appeal within the 30-day window.
“We think there are some serious flaws in the rezoning, both substantive and procedural, and since we couldn’t convince LURC, we are hoping to have our day in court,” St. Pierre said.