Plum Creek Timber, one of the nation's biggest landowners, has filed a plan with Maine's wilderness-zoning agency to develop nearly 1,000...
Plum Creek Timber, one of the nation’s biggest landowners, has filed a plan with Maine’s wilderness-zoning agency to develop nearly 1,000 camp lots and two resorts in the North Woods that Henry David Thoreau roamed 150 years ago.
The project, which Plum Creek announced in December, would include subdividing its holdings in the Moosehead Lake region. It is the largest subdivision proposed in the 10.5 million acres of unorganized territories that the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission oversees.
The Seattle company said Tuesday that the plan has drawn broad support in the Greenville-Rockwood area because it balances conservation and economic development in a part of Maine where job opportunities have lagged.
“Over the past several months, we have met with more than 25 interest groups and numerous members of the community to discuss our plan,” said Jim Lehner, Plum Creek’s general manager for the Northeast. “During this process, we have listened to the feedback we received and, in many cases, we have adjusted our plans based on that feedback.”
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The commission’s review is expected to take at least a year, with environmental organizations vowing to give the plan careful scrutiny.
“This is not our vision of what the North Woods should be for the people of Maine. This is the biggest undeveloped area east of the Mississippi and its specialness comes from its being undeveloped,” said Cathy Johnson, North Woods project director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
Plum Creek said the project involves a total of 426,000 acres, of which about 10,000 are scheduled for development. About 4,500 acres would be set aside for camp lots, along with 3,500 acres for two “nature-based” resorts. Land also is earmarked for economic development and low-income housing in Greenville, the tourist town that serves as the main entry to the North Woods.
Most of the remaining 416,000 or so acres would remain working forest under a 30-year management plan that would allow Plum Creek to continue logging but preclude further development.
As conservation incentives, the deal includes permanent hiking- and snowmobile-trail rights for the state and shorefront conservation status for 180 miles of shoreland, including 55 undeveloped, pristine ponds.
The proposed development would be on part of the more than 900,000 acres Plum Creek purchased seven years ago from South Africa-based Sappi.
Although the Natural Resources Council hasn’t taken a stance on the project, size and location remain key concerns, said Johnson, who suggested that development be sited closer to population centers.
“I’m afraid that this is really a turning point for the North Woods. … If Plum Creek is allowed to do this on 400,000 acres, we could get 20 more of these things all across the North Woods.”