The Natural Resources Council of Maine
Date: October 21, 1998 Contact: Pete Didisheim, Judy Berk, 622-3101
Irving buys 1 million acres of Maine woods, waterfronts from Bowater
Statement of Pete Didisheim, Advocacy Director
"Unlike Plum Creek, Irving's tradition is in timber harvesting and not also real estate development. We hope that Irving, as they assume ownership of these forestlands, and Bowater, as they continue to sell their Maine lands, will be open to efforts by the Governor to protect the public's interest through the purchase important places.
"We urge the Governor and his staff to develop a proposal to protect some of Bowater's lands surrounding Baxter State Park, the West Branch of the Penobscot River, the headwaters of the St. John River, and the Debsconeag Lakes region, in particular. These areas have been enjoyed for generations by Maine people for hunting, fishing, and traditional recreation. They warrant long-term protection against possible developments that would make these lands off-limits to Maine people forever."
"In terms of timber harvesting activities, Irving's practices have received considerable scrutiny and do warrant close attention as they become a dominant landowner in the state. Their extensive establishment of plantations in Canada has drawn strong opposition from Canadian people who believe that important forested areas are being treated like fiber farms."
"At the same time, however, there are indications that Irving is making significant changes in their forest practices. We are encouraged that Irving has subjected a sizable portion of their Canadian timber lands to an independent `green certification' audit, to demonstrate a commitment to sustainable timber harvesting practices. Our understanding is that Irving received a fairly high score in this audit, indicating a higher level of attention to issues such as clean water, wildlife habitat protection, reduction of soil erosion, and other important environmental considerations.
"We would expect that they will apply for green certification standards here in Maine as well.
"The prime lands on Bowater's original parcel include:
"The West Branch of the Penobscot River from Chesuncook Lake to the Canadian border, including the shorelines of Chesuncook, Seboomook, Ragged and Penobscot.
"Lands from the east side of Chamberlain Lake to the Allagash Wilderness Waterway and Baxter region, including shoreline along the most critical stretch of the St. John River.
"The 60,000 acre Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness bridges from Baxter State Park to the Namakanta tract.
"The headwaters of the St. John River, including the entire Baker Branch watershed and three remote ponds.
"Three complete townships adjacent to the eastern border of Baxter State Park, including shoreline on the East Branch of the Penobscot and Katahdin Lake.
Pristine lakes and rivers are at risk of development unless actions are taken by the state to secure their protection. We hope that Bowater and Irving will seriously entertain a broad effort by the state to protect these lands on behalf of the public interest.
"Maine ranks near the bottom of all states in the country in the amount of publicly owned lands - less than 5%. By comparison, New Hampshire has 15% public land; Vermont has 11%; Massachusetts has 24%.
"The recent spate of million acre land sales, and the prospect of other major forestlands being sold in the future, should serve as a wake-up call to the entire state and its elected officials. If we hope to protect some of the most valued lands in Maine from being subdivided and posted off-limits, then we must do as other states are doing and work aggressively to raise the necessary public and private funds for the purchase of land and conservation easements. Monroe County, Pennsylvania has approved a $25 million public land bond; Austin Texas, $65 million; Connecticut, $160 million. It's time for Maine to take action too."
Natural Resources Council of Maine
271 State Street
Augusta, Maine 04330
phone - (207) 622-3101
fax - (207) 622-4343