All Maine Matters

January 2006



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Undue Influence: Katahdin Region, Part 1
by David P. Cyr

It takes years and sometimes decades, for the full effect of a wilderness campaign to reach everybody. Being in the middle of a small development at Black Cat Mountain, I was able to gain a unique perspective on how and why a de-population campaign worked. Because the successes of the Northern Forest Alliance results in human removal, they cannot tell you the truth.

You would very likely be upset if someone approached you on your porch at camp and explained to you how this camp and all around it are slated for removal in 25 years, you would not be upset however, if a green group declared that they were here to protect special places, and conveniently omitted that this camp was indeed a special place, is that a lie? Or “Undue Influence”. What follows is a story of influence, unwanted, unwelcome and unappreciated.

In 1993, I began my efforts to secure a lease on Black Cat Mountain. The property had previously supported a hotel built by my father, back in 1970. The hotel burned flat, suspiciously, in the dead of night, in the dead of winter. Despite the existence of three contracts with the town to provide fire protection for the hotel, not one drop of water was used.

In January of 1996, I made my presentation to the Woodlands Department. In that meeting I stressed the need to purchase the 65-acre property. I provided documentation to illustrate the inability of projects on leased land to secure financing. My presentation echoed the assertion of local Realtor, Erwin Bacon, who had made a good case in the local paper about the need for a four season resort on Hammond Ridge. During my presentation I displayed topo photos of Hammond Ridge and explained why a ski resort on that mountain was not practical. The height and shape of the ridge along with the hardwood cutting activities of the seventies and eighties had left it in a butt ugly condition. Just as an example, I folded a piece of paper to illustrate the proper rise/run angle needed for ski trails, and then I explained that right across the lake, Trout Mountain had the perfect topography to be developed as a ski resort. The broad face would allow for numerous trails and very cost effective construction. That would prove to the first of three big mistakes.

My second mistake was sharing my plans and blueprints for a massive 12,000 square foot destination on top of Black Cat Mountain. The structure we named the “Overlook” was designed to house a huge dining facility on the first floor, complete with a 270 degree view of Mt. Katahdin and five lakes. The lower level was designed as a convention center, with a huge main hall this level was very flexible. It could serve weddings in the summer and to cater large snowsled events in the winter.

Now, the entire point of the presentation was to display a credible plan for the development of Black Cat Mountain that would fall in line with accepted GNP policy. I presented plans for a Cabin/Campground business starting with 65 acres, that would certainly grow with the purchase of the land and the influx of bank money. Following the cabins, I laid out the need to lease the 90 acre parcel on the backside of the mountain, as phase two of my plan. The “Overlook” needed an access road down to the lake road.

Finally, I presented Marcia and company with “Phase Three”, The development of Hammond Ridge. I explained how the “Overlook” was needed to grow the demand for a resort on Hammond Ridge, but , the available tourism growth statistics, showed a strong steady annual growth without it.

At the end of it all, I was told that the sale of the land at this time was not possible, but the sale of the lots on Smith pond had been a success and they had discussed plans to sell the camp lots on Millinocket lake next. That would be 2-3 years tops, and I would be able to buy the property. When I asked if I could see something to that effect in writing, I was told that these things always seem to bite them later on and I would have to trust them to sell me my lease. The conversation went into my personal 27 year history as the Great Northern’s’ contractor, and basically I was told I needed to trust the company to be true to its word.

I am a true believer of mans need to be true to his/her word, and having been raised in a business and in a world where people would on a regular basis, buy and sell property on a handshake. My beliefs have become my biggest fault, because it is here that I committed big mistake number three - I trusted them. I thought that because I knew all these people who were in charge of millions of acres of land and in fact the largest landowner in the state, that I was connected in a good way, to good people, doing good things. I was very naïve.

For three years I heard very heartfelt, sincere excuses stressing how they knew I needed to get going up to Black Cat, and how the whole Woodlands Dept. was putting their best effort forward to help me get my land, but it just wasn’t a good time right now. The best one was “Good things come to those who wait”, or “You have to be patient, if you want to succeed.”

Finally, in the fall of 2000, I learned of a radical group, called “RESTORE: The North Woods”, who were proposing a 3.2 million acre national park to be built where we live. We attended a meeting in Greenville where Jim St. Pierre and his partner in green unreality, were literally made to fear for their lives.

Several members of the audience were loud and threatening, having previously heard of the intentions of RESTORE. Within a day of this meeting, RESTORE cancelled its` scheduled meeting with Millinocket’s residents.

This was the first time I was forced to realize that there was organized opposition to my project and any other form of development in this area. They set up shop in Hallowell, Maine, maintained a full time staff dedicated to population removal, and have no plans to go away, until their park is built.

I determined that my lack of knowledge in the workings of the green groups was another weakness I could ill afford to carry forward. So I got educated, did a lot of research; and it seemed that under every rock I looked under, I uncovered the same name - The Nature Conservancy.

In fact, every Wilderness Campaign I have researched to date had a great deal of start up help from The Nature Conservancy. They are usually described as the ‘”good guys”, coming in; but TNC is the modern day architect of a new era in land theft. They have become the largest, richest and most powerful because they have mastered the art of influence.

With Great wealth comes political influence, and because the results of this influence will produce no positive result to the vast majority, subtle half truths are required to make most points seem to be beneficial. For example, during the Katahdin Forest Project, when The TNC came in as the ultimate shiny Knight on the white horse, they proclaimed to be here to help us. If that was true, why did they mortgage the land? The mills were also worth hundreds of millions.

The answer is in the results, TNC’s “help” gave us a five mile wide easement across a one mile wide swamp, just north of the Stacyville Road pit area. In this area there were proposals to develop ATV and Motocross track and event complex; but for the good of the environment we now have only an easement, held in perpetuity to protect that area, from you and I.

Next was the 139,000 acre easement to save all of the endangered land from development. What a good idea to save land from the evil that will sure to follow should any business find a way in. I mean, think about it, all those disgusting jobs, filthy money, hell, they did us a favor. Next, we have our two new preserves, 3,500 acres at Trout Mountain and 41,000 acres at Debsconesque. These lands have been removed from tree production forever, and will never produce a single dollar in benefit to any one in the Katahdin area.

In fact, when the Nature Conservancy flips these lands to the government, they will likely no longer pay a tax to the county, if you have a camp or property in this area, you will bear that new expense.

In late February, The Nature Conservancy sold the mortgage and Maine Timberlands assigned the leases of a complete township and a half. The total control of that land now belongs to CCM Working Forest LLC. Due to the investigations made public by the Washington Post, The Nature Conservancy was forced to stop rewarding their Trustees and want-a-be’s with huge tracts of valuable land, so the method of assigning the rights and leases was developed. Maine’s LLC law allows for the ownership of the LLC to remain hidden, providing a great deal of benefit for those who plan to do unpopular deeds. Is all this secrecy in our best interest?

(Part two of this four-part series will be published next month.)

David P. Cyr, a lifelong resident of Millinocket, Maine gave up his seat as a member of the Millinocket Planning Board, prior to his election to the Millinocket Town Council. While he retains his seat on the Comprehensive Planning Committee, he also holds a seat on the Board of the Millinocket Historical Society and Katahdin Area Television. Along with his membership in the Maine Leaseholder’s Association and the Fin And Feather Club, he was recently elected to the Steering Committee of the Maine Woods Coalition.
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