In keeping with the puzzle theme, I’m going to add a couple of new pieces that we haven’t really looked at as yet. At least in depth. I have mad mention several times that most of the long term positions to be created within the framework of the Plum Creek/TNC proposal for the Moosehead region were going to be service sector positions. Many do not realize it, but service sector positions encompass a great variety of work opportunities. The most common are hotel and foodservice jobs. Most of these jobs are seasonally dependent, as well as temporary in nature, with a part time wage structure.

The job that pays my rent and bills is in the field of retail, so I know full well the pitfalls and drawbacks of relying on this type of industry to provide long term answers to the dilemma of the current economy. A case in point is the announcement made earlier today that the service sector labor force declined in January, causing a further erosion of the stock market. And that didn’t occur just here in the US, it was happening in many countries. With the recession currently in place, people are reluctant to spend as much as they had in the past on discretionary items, and travel and entertainment are the first to go. Should this recession be a prolonged one, and develop into a full scale depression, there is no country in the world that will be spared. To think that Maine will be spared the downfall of the national economy is ludicrous at best.

Recent news releases bode ill will for the state of Maine should this proposal put forth by Plum Creek/TNC be approved. While not guaranteeing conservation of habitat, it allows Plum Creek to conduct business as usual, while at the same time obtaining a way to avoid prosecution should they run afoul of Maine rules and reg’s concerning the environment. But even worse, we will have an organization that really doesn’t have Maine’s best interest at heart in control of much of our timberlands.

A recent article highlighting a program developed by TNC and the Maine DEP relates to the fact that developers can destroy habitat in one area, while paying a fee to go into a fund that might be used to purchase land someplace else. It appears as though TNC has their thumbs stuck in the belt loop(hole)s of the wooded areas of just about all of America. Maine is just one piece of the pie for them. This article below is from last June, but it illustrates that TNC is active in more places than just Maine. With all of this land they are slowly gaining control of, one must pause to wonder why.

What’s in it for them? Obviously, conservation of habitat isn’t their main priority. If it was, why would they help develop programs like the one here in Maine that allows CMP to destroy the 30,000 square feet of habitat in Scarborough for their substation, simply by pumping $116,000 into the fund. And who controls this fund? There doesn’t seem to be a lot of information readily available to the general public, and when that happens, it indicates a desire to keep things secret from the public by the government. Why?

The Nature Conservancy is heavily active across the globe, and while they are in fact accomplishing much good for conservation around the globe, a growing trend in the tendency to make tradeoffs of precious habitat in exchange for control of land is changing the intended mission of the organization. That 30,000 square feet of habitat that CMP is going to annihilate will never be able to be reclaimed. It’s a small parcel, and probably of very little consequence in the big picture, but what I seem to be missing is any indication that this really needs to happen. But even more importantly, why are we allowing it to happen in the first place?

Exactly where is the line going to be drawn that says where a developer cannot trade land to avoid a responsibility for conservation? Who makes the decision? Is the simple act of paying a tax to the state for the right to destroy going to be our ultimate downfall? I’ve mentioned before that we need to stop looking at habitat as parcels of land. We need to start looking at entire ecosystems, and using these as determinates for valid development projects. Plum Creek and TNC are tripping down the road to the golden city at the taxpayer’s expense, and this needs to stop. In 2006 TNC started selling off land they purchased from Plum Creek Timber in the Blackfoot region of Montana in 2003 for around $68,000,000, yep, that’s sixty eight million dollars.

Indications from newspaper and web articles as well as emails are that more and more, these lands are being removed from the timber harvest cycle, and the public is losing valuable access to these forests. Those in the Moosehead region that believe that business will continue in their back yard as usual will become disappointed in the results after a few years. Hunting and fishing grounds will be gone. Logging and mill jobs will be gone with the decline of the timber industry as we know it today.

But thankfully, TNC will have total control over Maine’s future, once they have locked up enough land and easement contracts to maintain their power. Do we really want this to happen to Maine? Are we going to be happy with having to ask permission from TNC to take a hike, or go fishing or hunting in our own back yards? Will be satisfied with having to store our snowmobiles and ATV’s in the back yard because the trails have been closed?

Like I asked earlier, exactly what is in all of this for TNC? What benefit is there for them to have control over all of this land? And once again, why are they willing to stand for destruction of habitat to gain control over larger blocks of Maine’s back woods? Is this really about conservation?

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