Plum Creek, A Responsible Choice For ME?

Posted: 17/01/2008 in Uncategorized
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Is the proposed development by Plum Creek Timber a responsible choice for the state of Maine? In my humble opinion, no. Perched on one of those great turning points on the road to decision, we need to ask what the long term commitment in this project will mean to the taxpayers of Maine. Once again, to do that we need to look at the history of Plum Creek, and see how they take their responsibility to the community. Since they are proposing this development, we’ll look at Maine first.

We have probably all heard about the fact that Plum Creek Timber was the recipient of the largest fine ever assessed to a logging company in the history of Maine. Most people seem to believe that this was simply for clear cutting when they shouldn’t have been doing so. So let’s look at the story behind the story and see what it was that Plum Creek was guilty of. I took the liberty of borrowing a document from the NRCM files that summarizes some of what Plum Creek’s violations here in Maine amount to. This is just some of the actions they were caught for doing.

NRCM Report
Based on Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) Analysis of Documents in the Possession of Maine’s Natural Resource Agencies
Nov ember 15, 2006
Seattle-based Plum Creek Real Estate Investment Corporation purchased 905.000 acres for less than $200/acre in Maine in 1998. and claimed at the time — and repeatedly since — that the company would practice sustainable forestry and be a good corporate citizen. Over the past eight years. however, NRCM has heard from loggers, registered Maine guides. property owners, camp owners. and hunters that Plum Creek has logged in a very aggressive fashion. Sonic believed Plum Creek’s logging practices were destroying important wildlife habitat and possibly violating Maine’s laws for protecting our forests and environment. …….

What we learned. and what is captured in this report. is deeply troubling. We have documented a flagrant pattern of disregard by Plum Creek for Maine’s forestry laws and protections for wildlife habitat. Plum Creek was fined S57.000 for repeatedly violating Maine’s Forest Practices Act. the largest such fine in Maine history. No prior violation has come close.’ Plum Creek also has violated LURC standards that protect water quality, it developed a power line corridor through forest lands without applying for a permit. and the company has consistently and defiantly ignored appeals by state agency biologists to refrain from destroying deer wintering habitat within Plum Creek’s ownership.

So we have here a claim that Plum Creek promised when they purchased all this land at bargain basement prices, that they would be good neighbors. Were they really good, responsible neighbors? I’m sure the deer in this state don’t believe so. Here are some excerpts from the report that summarize the irreversible damage their management style have brought to Maine.

Pierce P0int Deer Yard Cut
In a June. 2005 memo. Charles Hulsey. IF&W’s Regional Biologist for Region D. described
Plum Creek’s destruction of the deer yard between the Upper Pierce Ponds and the Dead River:

Indian Stream Deer Yard Cut
In October 2005. LF&W biologists discovered that Plum Creek was harvesting in a deer yard iii
Indian Stream Township. Again. Charles Hulsey wrote concerning this harvesting that:

Lexington Township Deer Yard
In Lexington Township. Plum Creek again refused to listen to IF&W requests to limit cutting of
critical deer yards. Plum Creek cut a deer yard in this township in the winter of 20052006.

Plum Creek Ramps Up Deer Yard Cutting in 2006
Over the past year. Inland Fisheries amid Wildlife staff members have continued to try to negotiate a means to curb Plum Creek’s destruction of deer yards. but they have apparently failed. In fact. Plum Creek appears to have ramped up its plans for cutting deer yards.

2. Plum Creek Breaks Forestry Laws to Receive Largest Penalties in Maine History; Breaks Maine Water and Development Laws Too
Plum Creek has also violated laws and regulations that LURC amid MFS oversee. The company has developed land without a permit. polluted streams with sediment, and clear-cut so heavily that they received the largest civil penalties in the history of the Maine Forest Practices Act (FPA).

Plum Creek Developed Power Line Corridor Without Permit
In 2003. Plum Creek violated LURC rules when it developed a 7.500footlong power line corridor
to the North Shore Subdivision of their First Roach Pond development without a permit. William
Galbraith of LURC wrote strongly about Plum Creek’s failure to obey the rules:

Plum Creek Pollutes Streams. Violates Water Quality Law
In July 2002. Plum Creek. LURC and MFS staff inspected
Plum Creek forest haul roads in the West Middlesex Canal Grant in Somerset County.

Plum Creek Violates Logging Law. Receives Largest Monetary Penalty in Forest Practices Act (FPA) History
Plum Creek also violated the FPA. a violation that resulted in far and away the largest civil
monetary penalty since the FPA rules were passed in 1990.

It is clear Plum Creek attempted to avoid responsibility for the LLTRC violations and eventually succeeded. In addition. MFS decided not to let the public know about the extent of the penalty against Plum Creek.

That’s quite a record for a company that claimed they wanted to be good, responsible neighbors. On the whole, it could be argued that these few violations only encompass a miniscule percentage of the Plum Creek operations, and really don’t tell the story fairly. OK. I’ll agree with that assumption, so let’s look around and see what they have been doing elsewhere.

Harvests under scrutiny
By SHERRY DEVLIN of the Missoulian

The U.S. Forest Service is investigating six possible instances of “timber trespass” by Plum Creek Timber Co. in the upper Lochsa River drainage of Idaho, not far from the Montana state line, officials said Wednesday.

Special agent Roger Seewald said the government has “a keen interest” in a half-dozen areas where Plum Creek apparently cut trees in the Clearwater National Forest without the Forest Service’s permission.

In another case, the company apparently built a road across a section of national forest land without a permit – and after being told not to, said Seewald, who is heading the investigation out of the Forest Service’s regional office in Missoula.

So Plum Creek clear cut an unknown amount of timber on Federal land, paid for by you and I with our taxes, and built a road after they were told not to. Hmm. To be fair, the six incidents the article refers to happened at places where PC land abutted the Clearwater National Forest. Independent contractors crossed over the property line, continuing their clear-cutting operation. Apparently, Plum Creek claimed it was the contractors fault. Are these contractors working here in Maine? Read on from this report about a fire situation in Montana…

Blanchard Creek Fire 56090/SWS218/CLW060 08/17/07

This was the second Plum Creek burn pile that we (DNRC) initial attacked this summer which was actually lit by Plum Creek Timber Company back in November of 2006. After the first fire escaped, I spoke with Roger Marshall who is the Plum Creek representative out of Seeley Lake. We got the first fire to a status where Plum Creek could take over the patrolling and we agreed to return one final time to officially call the fire dead out, which we did. Roger assured us that they would be checking the other piles weekly throughout the summer so that they would not escape into another wildland fire. The individual that Plum Creek had contracted to “Patrol” the fires admitted to me upon my arrival that he had not checked the piles for three weeks and when he saw our engine crews in the area it made him nervous so he went to check to see if there was a fire. What he found was a type I helicopter dropping water on the fire that had escaped one of the piles that he was supposed to be monitoring. At the time, visibility was extremely poor due to all the smoke in the air and it was fortunate for everyone that the type I Helicopter happened to fly directly over this fire on his way to the Ovando Point Fire from Missoula. With the lack of patrolling by Plum Creek’s contractor, I feel that it is only right to bill Plum Creek for the fire suppression costs.

Howard J. Kent ,Unit Fire Supervisor

So we have another situation where tax dollars were spent to take care of another Plum Creek situation. The contractor Plum Creek hired to patrol hazardous fire locations was off doing something else, and wildfires broke out putting people at risk and burning an unspecified amount of timberland. Let’s go back a little further for more fire related news about Plum Creek Timber…

Plum Creek won’t pay for 2000 blazes
By SHERRY DEVLIN of the Missoulian

Plum Creek Timber Co. “respectfully declines” to take any responsibility for two wildfires ignited by loggers on its timberland at Lolo Pass during the summer of 2000 – or for the $11 million the U.S. Forest Service spent fighting those fires after they spread onto national forest land.

In letters to the Clearwater National Forest, an attorney for Plum Creek pointed the finger at the independent contractors hired to log two tracts of company-owned forestland.

Once again, It wasn’t Plum Creek’s responsibility. Seems as though a pattern is developing. It’s never Plum Creek’s responsibility, it’s the contractors fault. Once again, hmm. Let’s take a ook at this press release from Trout Unlimited a few years back…..

6/11/2002 — Seattle, WA — Conservationists will go to federal court to stop Plum Creek from ruining one of the last remaining bull trout populations in the West.

“Plum Creek’s habitat conservation plan is based on vague promises, but offers little new or effective protection for the fish,” says Chris Frissell, PhD, Senior Scientist for the Pacific Rivers Council.

Pacific Rivers Council and Trout Unlimited filed a 60-day notice indicating they plan to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Those agencies approved a permit allowing Plum Creek Timber Company to harm 17 species of native fish, including bull trout, steelhead, Chinook salmon and westslope cutthroat trout. Patti Goldman of the environmental law firm Earthjustice represents the groups. “This permit will allow Plum Creek’s logging, real estate sales and grazing to continue substantially unchanged,” says Scurlock. “Meanwhile, native fish populations will continue to disappear on the company’s lands. This plan is a bad deal for the fish and for the public.”

“We don’t object to the concept of Plum Creek getting a take permit — in fact cooperating with landowners to create conservation plans is something we pride ourselves on doing well,” says Farling. “Because this permit provides enormous benefits to the company, including 30 years of insulation from prosecution by the federal government, we expect the fish to be granted some significant, ironclad protections. They didn’t get them.”

Of the 53 “conservation commitments” made by Plum Creek in exchange for the permit, only a few contain concrete improvements over the minimum logging and road building practices allowed under state rules already in place.

So the company gets to harm sensitive local habitats in exchange for getting to run their business as usual. Hmm. Here’s a bit of news from another one of Plum Creek’s development properties…..

Subdividing the forest

By MICHAEL JAMISON, Missoulian – 12/30/07 KALISPELL — Not far up the road from Steve Brown’s house, out west of Whitefish and just around the corner from forest burnt black by the Brush Creek fire, a quarter-mile of new road is headed off into the woods.

The short stretch will cross U.S. Forest Service land, using that public patch to connect Plum Creek Timber Co. with the rest of the world. Plum Creek has another route in, a winding six-mile twist of road used seasonally to haul logs, but the new neighbors weren’t going to put up with that.

The reason? Plum Creek’s not going to log that land anymore. Instead, the company plans on selling it as subdivided real estate parcels.

Sounds like Moosehead’s in for some unplanned work, doesn’t it? If the proposed concept plan gets approved, exactly who will be responsible for any damages, intended or otherwise, of any work performed around the sites planned for development. Who’s going to pay for repairs? So far, my research indicates that Plum Creek is the kind of neighbor that points blame and avoids the responsibility of taking care of problems caused by their own employees or contractors they hire. There are a lot more stories of this nature, but I cannot publish hundreds of pages a day. Do the research. Find out what the truth about Plum Creek and their development areas really is. Are they a good neighbor? Is approval of this ‘concept plan’ really a good choice for the taxpayers of Maine? After all, if things go wrong, you and I will be picking up the tab for it. Let the LURC know how you stand on the issue of Plum Creek and its mega development. In my opinion, it’s a really bad choice if the approve the plan.

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