BIG MOOSE TOWNSHIP, Maine — Three state agencies will convene on Thursday to determine if the owner of Big Squaw Mountain Ski Resort violated restrictions on his land by harvesting timber on a particular parcel.
The Department of Conservation’s Bureau of Parks and Lands, the Land Use Regulation Commission and the attorney general’s office will meet to reach a decision.
James Confalone bought about 7,000 acres in 1994 from the Bureau of Parks and Lands, according to a letter Confalone sent to the bureau in November. About 1,200 acres have timber harvesting restrictions set by the Bureau of Parks and Lands.
LURC sent Confalone a notice of violation on Aug. 31, 2011, for harvesting timber on the restricted parcel of land. Rod Falla, LURC’s Greenville regional supervisor, said he wasn’t sure how many acres were harvested but the letter sent by Confalone to the Bureau of Parks and Lands in November said 40 to 50 acres were harvested without a permit. In his letter, Confalone said the harvesting of timber was halted after he was alerted to the restrictions.
Only three exceptions are allowed in the land deed for Confalone to harvest timber in the restricted parcel. Harvesting is allowed for trails, lifts, snowmaking facilities, construction of transient accommodations and vacation homes for lease or sale, and all related improvements, including roadways, serving the same and the ski area resort; for firewood or lumber for the resort and improvements; and for harvesting dead or dying timber and blowdowns.
The timber that was harvested was allowed to be sold instead of left to rot, said Falla, and the number of logs was tallied. Falla said the wood taken doesn’t meet the definition of dying timber and blowdowns.
“This has been a complicated case,” said Falla. He added that both LURC and the Bureau of Parks and Lands sent Confalone notices of violation, but Confalone responded only to the Bureau of Parks and Lands letter.
“What we need to do from the LURC standpoint is sit down with Parks and Lands and figure out if the timber harvesting is consistent with these deed restrictions,” said Falla.
In Confalone’s letter to the Bureau of Parks and Lands, he contends that the harvested wood “was within the guidelines of the deed, and … it was to be bartered for the repairing of the newly expanded ski trails on the ski resort.”
Rodney Folsom, agent for Mountain Inc., which is owned by Confalone, said the timber was harvested to extend ski trails.
The ski resort did not operate this past winter and was in limited use in the previous winter, according to Folsom.
The wording of the deed also has complicated matters, said David Rodrigues of the Bureau of Parks and Lands.
“The deed doesn’t specifically say he actually has to operate the ski resort,” said Rodrigues. “We can’t force someone to run a business.”
LURC can issue an after-the-fact permit if it’s found that Confalone did not violate the deed.
“It’s not clear as to when he can cut trails,” said Rodrigues. “The argument can be made that he’s planning on opening in the next couple of years and needs to cut the trails.”
Falla said if Confalone is found to be in violation, the case will move to the attorney general’s office.