June 24, 2018
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Economy, conservation coexist

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN
This artwork by Michael Osbun relates to the deteriorating National Park system and plans to sell federal land.
By Mark Berry, Special to the BDN

This is in response to the March 19 column by Randy Spencer, “Camp owners sacrificial lambs to conservation.”

Downeast Lakes Land Trust, or DLLT, is a local community-based nonprofit land trust founded in 2001 and led by guides and other residents of Grand Lake Stream. Our work started from local concern that surrounding forestlands were at risk for lakeshore development and the loss of public access. We are dedicated to the long-term economic and environmental well-being of the Downeast Lakes region.

The Downeast Lakes region’s fisheries, including native landlocked salmon and brook and lake trout, as well as smallmouth bass, are world-renowned. The area is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including moose, white-tailed deer, black bears, bobcats and at least 180 species of birds. Our unique and productive forest has supported our economy and been used by visitors and residents for generations. Natural resources provide livelihoods for craftsmen, guides, sporting camp employees and forest industry workers.

We have succeeded in ensuring that 350,000 acres will forever be open for traditional public recreational access and will support the regional timber economy, while hundreds of miles of lakeshore will remain undeveloped. We sustainably manage the 33,708-acre Farm Cove Community Forest for wildlife habitat, forest products and public recreation.

DLLT’s forest management provides guides and sporting camps an environment that is conducive to their continued success, contributing to the preservation of Grand Lake Stream’s heritage and culture. Our partners and supporters have invested in the long-term conservation and stewardship of nationally significant wildlife resources, jobs essential to the rural economy and world-class outdoor recreation.

In late 2008, this remarkable progress was threatened by the pending sale of 22,000 acres on the eastern shore of West Grand Lake. If the West Grand Lake Community Forest property were to be subject to lakeshore development, no-trespassing signs and the loss of the forest economy, it would be a critical blow to the conservation values of the surrounding lands and the future of Grand Lake Stream.

Instead, DLLT now has the opportunity to ensure the character of Grand Lake Stream can be protected, and the economy that depends on unspoiled lakeshores and productive fisheries can thrive.

In December 2008, DLLT signed an option agreement with the new owner of the property, GLS Woodlands LLC, a subsidiary of the Lyme Forest Fund managed by the Lyme Timber Co. or GLS Woodlands. GLS Woodlands acquired the property as a result of a decision by the previous owner to sell its property in Washington County. The option provides DLLT the right to purchase all of the GLS Woodlands property, except for the 33 lease lots, and manage it for wildlife habitat, a sustainable timber supply and public recreation, all to support the local economy. GLS Woodlands has committed to sustainable forest management and public recreational access during the term of the option.

In his column, Randy Spencer suggests that 33 current camp owners are being “driven out of Grand Lake Stream” as a result of conservation efforts. To be clear, Downeast Lakes Land Trust has no property interest in, or control or influence over, lease lots owned by GLS Woodlands. These lots are not subject to the option agreement with DLLT, nor can DLLT profit in any way from their sale.

GLS Woodlands’ sale of its leased lots follows sales by other forest management companies of far more local leased lots, and is not a result of any conservation project. Mr. Spencer’s piece appears to be an attempt to develop public support for his position. In so doing we believe that he should disclose more clearly that his private camp is on a lot leased from GLS Woodlands, and he is involved in an intense financial dispute over the value of the property.

When DLLT raises adequate funds to purchase the property, the West Grand Lake Community Forest will include 21,700 acres around the village of Grand Lake Stream and 17 miles of undeveloped shoreline on West Grand Lake, Big Lake and Lower Oxbrook Lake. DLLT will ensure public access, a sustainable supply of forest products and protection of wildlife habitats.

The project is locally led and has extraordinarily strong local support. The residents of Grand Lake Stream voted unanimously to contribute to DLLT for permanent conservation of the West Grand Lake Community Forest. For more information, visit www.downeastlakes.org or call 796-2100.

Mark Berry is the executive director of Downeast Lakes Land Trust.

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