Plum Creek Is Plum Crazy For Maine

Posted: 11/01/2008 in Uncategorized
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Catchy title isn’t it? You can take it in two directions, and when you let go it snaps back to its original shape. Kind of like Silly Putty. I’m sure some of you remember Silly Putty. You could press it over the Sunday comic strips and distort the characters any way you want to. That’s exactly what’s going on with this Plum Creek proposal here in Maine. You’ll often hear or read my comments about the liberal’s and their special interest campaigning, and this project is no exception.

Between the Global Warming threat, the asteroid hurtling towards us at hundreds of light years a minute, poised to destroy the Earth, and the huge Caldera in the Yellowstone desert about to blow the western half of this country to the Moon, there are too many impending disasters to take most of what they say seriously. Plum Creek is an exception to the rule. Hey, every rule has an exception. Didn’t you learn that in Law School? While on the one hand, Plum Creek humbly offers lands for conservation, and donates to needy causes, they rake in the dough and leave residents in the hands of unscrupulous and greedy contractors. I would say Plum Creek is definitely not a responsible corporation.

A case in point that has reared its yellow heiney once again is Tim Blixseth’s Yellowstone Club. This place has a special history, and it sounds like Plum Creek is going to play the same song here in Maine. A little history would be proper at this point, so in a nutshell, here it is.

“In 1992, Plum Creek Timber Co., a subsidiary of Northern Pacific Rail Road Company sold their lands on the Gallatin National Forest to Tim Blixseth and the McDougal brothers, foresters from Oregon. Blixseth consolidated his lands by trading with the Forest Service in 1998 and developed the 13,400-acre Yellowstone Club gated subdivision. Members of the Club must show a worth of at least $3 million, pay a membership fee of $250,000, annual dues of $16,000 and only members and their guests and employees pass the gate.”(from Montana River Action)

Plum Creek made a good profit from the sale, and Blixseth went on to develop the land in much the same way as the Maine proposal will play out. As a REIT Plum Creek doesn’t pay income taxes on the deals they make. They are required to pay out all of their profits in the form of dividends. In theory, the stockholders pay taxes on the income they receive in the form of these dividends. I’m willing to bet that doesn’t happen.

But problems developed even before the Yellowstone Club opened, and have continued since that time. In the beginning there were stacks of violations by the contractors.

“Violations of natural resource laws began in 1998 when Blixseth obtained only 9 permits for work that was much larger in scope than was permitted. Seven permits were suspended. In 2002, the Club was accused of 60 violations of the federal Clean Water Act when they dumped dredge and fill material into 2 miles of streams and on 10 acres of wetlands. The Yellowstone Club was also fined $86,000 for 400 violations of stream pollution, killing of trout, diversion and obliteration of streams, putting earth dams across streams, breaking down stream banks and operating heavy earth moving equipment in streambeds, draining and destroying streambeds and pumping water, stemming from constructing a golf course, roads, bridges, culverts, ski lifts and ski runs without a permit. State and federal regulators accused the Club of ignoring state stop orders, violation of state and federal water quality laws, state sanitation laws and building more condominiums than permitted.” (from Montana River Action)

And the problems don’t end there. Over the years, Blixseth and others associated with developments initiated by Plum Creek through the sale of their land have been fined millions of dollars for violation of environmental laws. Damaging eco-structure and allowing waste in the form of raw sewage and chemicals from operations to drain into aquifers, he has managed to carve out a valuable piece of rich boy play land, at the expense of area residents. With few exceptions, there have been no meaningful full time employment opportunities arise from the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of development. The part time residents of the development avoid the responsibility of paying their fair share of property taxes, abuse the land and restrict access to hunters, hikers, fishermen and other people who once were able to enjoy the wilderness around the Big Sky area.

I fear that the same will happen to the Greenville area. Ski areas and golf courses will be carved out of the surrounding terrain, interrupting the forests with clear cut tracts and gouged out mountainsides. Employment opportunities hoped for by the residents will become nothing more than menial service positions with part time income. Once proud professional forestry workers and other skilled industrial workers will become housemaids, waiters, busboys and cleaners. And when they come out of the new Wal-Mart after cashing their part time pay checks, they can gaze across the valley and be proud of the bare strips of land criss-crossing their beloved mountainsides.

This is a shot of the mountain across from Mount Ranier National Park. This is about a mile from the park entrance. This is an example of Plum Creek operations in the mountains. I’d like to move forward in time and see what the scene will look like after decades of reduced erosion control. The foliage and root systems destroyed by these clear cuts will no longer be available to retain the soil, causing untold erosion damage.

This is the Big Sky area of Montana. Blixseths Yellowstone club encompasses just about all of this area. The gated community is off limits to the general public, allowing only the very wealthy to play in this mountain paradise.

Recently, Tim and his wife, Edra, filed for divorce. The Yellowstone Club has been put up for sale, and currently, to my knowledge has an offer from Crossharbor Capitol. A longtime club member, Samuel Byrne, is currently managing director of Crossharbor, a Boston investment firm. An interesting chain of events follows in the wake of nearly every development I have looked into coming out of Plum Creeks development sales. Are these pictures going to become Maines new icon, replacing Katahdin and the Portland Head Light?


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