All Maine Matters

January 2006



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The Maine Woods Coalition Seeks To Enhance Economic Development And Block Creation Of A Maine Woods National Park
by Gene Conlogue

The Maine Woods Coalition was formed in January of 2001 following a public meeting in Greenville the previous August that was sponsored by advocates for a new federally funded national park in north central Maine. The primary organization pushing for this park, RESTORE: the North Woods, is based in Concord, Massachusetts with an office in Hallowell.

RESTORE has proposed a 3.2 million acre park and preserve in the heart of Maine’s most valuable forest. The park would decimate the forest products industry, sporting camps, and other businesses in the area. Camp owners would lose their property in the park area and restrictions on use of the parkland by the public would be severe. The resulting unemployment would likely lead to another large decrease in the area’s population since many jobs would be lost.

Considering these factors, the opposition to the park idea was overwhelming at the August meeting and this led to the formal creation of the Coalition.

To put the size of this proposal in perspective, 3.2 million acres would be almost the size of the State of Connecticut. It would stretch from Baxter State Park west to the Quebec border and north of Routes 11 and 15, well into the heart of Maine’s famed north woods. To date, the Coalition and our allies (including the Governor, the entire Congressional Delegation, and the Maine Legislature) have been successful in stopping the park idea in its tracks.

The primary purposes of the Coalition are to promote appropriate economic development in the north central and northwestern part of the State and to
oppose creation of the Maine Woods National Park. In the five years since its formation, the Coalition has been very successful in keeping the park at bay, advocating for issues important to our area’s economy, and working with others on common goals. Membership is available to those who share the Coalition’s perspectives and who live in or have property or a business in the four counties of Somerset, Piscataquis, Penobscot, or Aroostook. Parts of these four counties comprise the target area for the park proposal. While the Coalition gladly accepts donations to finance its activities, there are no membership dues.

In 2005, a major land company, Plum Creek, proposed a bold 30-year plan for some of its holdings in the greater Greenville area. 426,000 acres of its land would be involved in this plan. Of this amount, 417,000 acres would be protected for traditional uses such as forestry, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, and other recreational uses.

The remaining 9,000 acres would be allocated to developing 975 camp lots; providing space for affordable housing; and encouraging economic development by setting aside land for an industrial park, two resorts, and campgrounds. Snowmobile and hiking trails would be permanently protected and the State would have an option to purchase a parcel of land it has long sought to protect.

The proposal would generate a large number of construction jobs that would last for many years and, with development, many other jobs could be created in the manufacturing, woods products, and tourism businesses in the area.

Because the project is designed to address a large land area all at one time, some are objecting to the Plum Creek plan. It is important to realize, however, that it is a long-term plan over 30 years and that some of its elements may never be realized or built. There are also critics who simply oppose almost all development of any kind, regardless of its benefits to the people who live in the region.

Based on the initial plans put forward by Plum Creek, the Maine Woods Coalition has endorsed the project as one that is consistent with responsible new economic development while protecting the existing economic base. It was also supported because the plan is a long-range, 30-year plan that gives everyone a clear picture of what is expected to occur over time, instead of other projects that are presented only on an incremental basis that often create more questions than answers. And the project does not seek public funds to make it successful; rather, it uses private money for its financing.

While most people in Maine believe in civil debate on controversial issues, there are others who prefer to shut down or intimidate such debate by perpetrating criminal acts against those with whom they disagree. Unfortunately, such people have surfaced in the Plum Creek issue.

While Plum Creek, its supporters, and many of its critics have involved themselves in the process provided by the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission to determine the fate of the project, a group of criminals has engaged in illegal activities such as vandalizing and attacking the property of Plum Creek, several employees, and supporters; the property of contractors; and some who have been mistakenly identified as having affiliations with the company. The violence has occurred on different occasions, but the boldest efforts occurred during the night of October 31 when vandals attacked several locations from Hallowell to Greenville. The violence has been condemned by a number of groups.

At its annual meeting on December 1, the Coalition unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the violence. As part of that action, the Coalition is also offering a $500.00 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for these criminal acts. It is hoped that other groups may also consider offering a reward as well to help in the apprehension of those responsible.

More information about the Coalition is available at

Gene Conlogue is the Town Manager of Millinocket, Maine as well as Vice Chairman of the Maine Woods Coalition.

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