The Land Use Regulation Commission’s decision to legitimize Plum Creek’s sprawling development around Moosehead Lake is just another instance of its inability to take leadership and plot a visionary course for the future of Maine’s vast Unorganized Territory. After four years of participating in the so-called “process,” it has become perfectly clear that LURC is yet another dysfunctional government agency that produces lots of work for lawyers and mounds of paperwork, but fails miserably in its mission to oversee and protect the Unorganized Territory of Maine.
In this process LURC switched sides. Rather than being an advocate for the Unorganized Territory, it became the architect and advocate for Plum Creek. It disregarded public opinion, it silenced the voices of expert witnesses and took money from Plum Creek to hire “expert staff” to shepherd the plan through. This process has been both appalling and pathetic to watch.
In the last three years, LURC has sold the North Woods to the highest bidder. It has given Trans Canada, the largest energy concern in Canada and the force behind the environmental disaster in the Alberta Tar Sands, the right to destroy the remote Kibby Mountain region with massive industrial mountaintop wind power. It has authorized Nestle Corp. to take hundreds of millions of gallons of our water. And now, it has given Plum Creek the right to pave over the Moosehead Lake region.
It is time for the Legislature to disband the LURC and reconstitute a new overseeing body that will be free from the current pervasive level of corruption.
LURC is required to evaluate any development project on the basis of demonstrated need. There has been no documentation that there is a demand for two megaresorts and 975 house lots sprawled across the Moosehead region. In fact, in this economy there is no demand. The rezoning benefits only Plum Creek’s bottom line.
LURC is supposed to make sure that any development has no adverse impacts on existing uses and resources. If you ever have spent time kayaking northern Moosehead Lake, as I have, the quiet and solitude of the area, the purity of the water and the abundance of wildlife would strike you. If Plum Creek’s plan is carried out, all this will disappear. The adverse ecological impact of this proposal is indisputable and the deterioration of a precious resource is unavoidable.
The spin on the so-called 400,000 acres of conservation has been remarkable. As one protester at the hearing asked, “What don’t you understand about the ‘con’ in conservation?” Abusive logging, mining, industrial wind farming, sludge spreading, power line construction, road building and water extraction all will be allowed.
The Forest Ecology Network, or FEN, will not let this irresponsible and ludicrous decision deter us from defending the Moosehead region. FEN intends to pursue legal action against LURC’s decision. Our lawyers feel that there have been so many missteps and breaches of statutory regulations that we will have a strong case before the courts.
Jonathan Carter is the director of the Forest Ecology Network.