CONTRIBUTORS

Let’s make paper, not a national park

Posted Sept. 30, 2013, at 12:24 p.m.
George Danby

Roxanne Quimby’s son, Lucas St. Clair, appears to have a new plan for a national park. St. Clair’s concept is nearly a clone of his mother’s original plan that the group Restore pushed for many years for a 70,000-acre “seed park” with an ultimate vision of a 3.2 million-acre national park.

But a national park is not what northern Maine wants or needs.

To start, the northern Maine woods don’t even meet the criteria for a national park.

One requirement for a national park is to offer something unique for the area and not easily found. But Baxter State Park, Katahdin, Moosehead Lake and the Allagash offer the same experiences. Quimby’s land is no more scenic than most of the unorganized territories in Maine. These areas are just like most in northern Maine open to snowmobiling and traditional uses.

Another requirement for starting a national park is local support — something Quimby’s plan doesn’t have. On Nov. 8, 2011, East Millinocket citizens held a referendum vote on a national park feasibility study Quimby was pushing. In a decisive 513-132 vote, the town’s voters turned down the feasibility study. The citizens sent a loud and clear message.

The national park proposal also lacks the support of a key business in the area — Great Northern Paper, which owns two paper mills in the Katahdin region — because of its potential negative impact on the area’s economy.

On Dec. 15, 2011, Great Northern Paper CEO Richard Cyr clarified in a statement to the BDN that his company doesn’t support the national park proposal.

“GNP is focused on making paper, bringing new technologies to the area, creating jobs and lifting the region’s economy,” he said. “We can’t support a proposal that could limit businesses, impact current jobs and decrease the potential for new jobs in the future.”

The National Park Service would also be able to challenge the emissions levels from any major business within a 100 km (62.5 miles) radius of a national park.

“There are plenty of good ideas that will create good jobs and diversify the economy,” Cyr said. “It doesn’t have to be a park.”

Proof is right before our eyes: Maine’s forest products industry is not dying. It’s thriving.

Maine is the second largest manufacturer of the paper in the U.S., and more than 90 percent of Maine’s land today is forested, according to the Maine Forest Service.

J.D. Irving plans to invest in the former Pinkham Lumber Mill in Ashland and build a $30 million dollar lumber production facility, creating 60 jobs. A short distance away, Ecoshel has decided to relocate its cedar shingle mill from Georgia to Maine and hire 78 people.

The town of East Millinocket’s motto is, “The Town That Paper Made,” and we are proud of that heritage. You don’t have to stand on our Main Street long to see a logging truck drive by or a pickup with chainsaws sticking out of the bed.

Great Northern Paper in East Millinocket, owned by Cate Street Capital, has been investing in the facility and looks to have a bright future. Cate Street has also spent $20 million to buy the rights that will allow it to manufacture bio-coal, or torrefied wood, that burns clean and is made from wood, a renewable resource. The company plans to install five torrefied wood machines at its campus in Millinocket and employ 25 employees per machine and others to cut wood, drive trucks and service the operation.

These are just a few of the efforts in our area and the rest of Maine. When I hear the statement, “the forest products industry is dying,” it really irritates me because it’s not true.

These forest products jobs pay a living wage, unlike the tourism jobs that ranked among the lowest-paying in the region, according to the economic study compiled by Headwaters Economics and commissioned by Quimby.

This is clearly why there has been no support from local and state officials, forest products representatives, the Maine Woods Coalition, the Maine Snowmobile Association, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, the group Preserve Maine Traditions, the Millinocket Fin and Feather Club and others.

Our answer has always been “no” and will remain “no!”

Mark Marston is co-chair of the East Millinocket Board of Selectmen and vice chair of the Maine Woods Coalition.

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