Plum Creek to Long Creek

Posted: 16/03/2008 in Uncategorized
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Plum Creek to Long Creek. A picture that evokes Maine’s struggle to evolve into an environmentally friendly state of existence. And a picture that shows we have a long way to go. A couple of recent articles floating around cyberspace bring to mind the dangers of those two old rascals, want and need. In this case, we want to save the environment. But what we need is to care for the growth and well being of the human population. That is one of the main reasons I cannot support a decision by Maine’s LURC to approve the lake concept plan provided by The Nature Conservancy via Plum Creek Timber. The picture painted by the advocates is a pretty one, with a gilt edged frame and all, but it really won’t do what we think it will.

A case in point to demonstrate what we can expect down the road from all of this environmental salvation come from a story on Montana’s paper Independent Record. The article (http://www.helenair.com/articles/2008/03/15/top/55lo_080315_landsale.txt )relates that the Montana Land Trust is considering the sale of 76 acres of protected land in Landers Fork. This land was purchased from Plum Creek in yet another deal between The Nature Conservancy and The Blackfoot Challenge. The Blackfoot Challenge is a homeowner association whose primary goal is/was to prevent rural land in the Blackfoot River area from being chopped up and subdivided into small acreage lots for upscale homes.

According to the article, a Tony Liane, a spokesman for Montana’s Natural Resources Council, “The Montana land trust parcel is surrounded by private property, making it difficult to manage, and its size means it has limited value to wildlife and the public…” Apparently. The land is surrounded by private homes, making it a “landlocked” property. Seventy six acres is really pretty small in the larger scheme of things, but it still bears the question. If this acreage was purchased with the intent of protecting habitat, why is it being considered for sale at all? The problem with this scenario, as well as with the Plum Creek proposal is that human being equate habitat with land.

The article further says “Liane said since many of these parcels are fairly isolated, the land board has allowed around 18,000 acres to be sold, with the proceeds going into a special fund. Money from that fund has, in turn, been used to purchase about 25,000 acres for public use.” So as will happen in Maine, land purchased for preservation and conservation isn’t being preserved, or protected in the long run. It would be interesting to see how many pockets of land across America that may house valuable habitat for many species on the decline have gone through this process. How many acres of preservation land have been traded off in the name of profit?

In a further statement in the article, Liane is quoted as saying “If these lands are isolated — for management purposes — and don’t make us as much money as they should be for the trust, that gives us opportunities with the proceeds from the sales to buy other properties that fit are management criteria,” So what this preservation/conservation game boils down to is that, The Nature Conservancy tells us a certain parcel of land is threatened, and we need to buy it to protect it, but after the taxpayers have turned around and paid The Nature Conservancy for the land it’s OK to sell it?

Is that going to be the case in the Moosehead region ten or fifteen or twenty years down the road? We have been given a story that the Northwood’s needs to be saved from development. That is a point agreed to. But do we need to enter into a contract that will eventually cost the taxpayers of Maine millions of dollars that we cannot afford to spend? If Plum Creek agrees that the land needs to be preserved, why don’t they just do it? They have made a good profit across the nation working in tandem with The Nature Conservancy on millions of acres of their land deals. Why is it the taxpayers of Maine, and the Nation, continue to be willingly swindled into thinking that they are preserving habitat, when in reality, they are just paying for land that private interests only want a profit out of?

Which brings us to an article about the Long Creek in South Portland, and a true picture of how preservation/conservation has a hard time coexisting with population. An article in the Portland Press Herald relates how the environment, AKA habitat, of the Long Creek has deteriorated over the last forty years to the point where one can no longer swim in it, nor is it habitable by the trout which once lived in it. Poisoned by the growth of human population and development, it’s going to cost a good chunk of change from the taxpayers to clean it up.

This is just a potential picture of what we may have to deal with down the road from the Plum Creek deal. Oil, antifreeze, pesticides and even prescription drugs can do substantial damage to any natural habitat, and this deal for the Moosehead region really doesn’t do that. The issue in discussion in the article is storm water drainage. Over the past four to five decades the greater Portland area has been growing at an increasing rate. Housing and communities are constantly built and remodeled, and with it, the paving of the land. All of this construction leads to more people, and more people leads to more pollution. Even the simple act of laying down hardtop pumps pollutants into the air, and drains chemicals into the soil as runoff.

Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t pave roadways here. What I am saying is that we should be looking into the future, and planning to prevent the same thing from happening in new developments that is happening in the Long Creek watershed area. If there are 940 new homes built in the Moosehead are, what kind of protection is going to be had from future pollutants? 940 new homes means at the least 940 new vehicles in 940 driveways, with the potential for 940 oil and antifreeze leaks. 940 septic systems leeching household cleaners and prescription drug into the soil. And more than likely, paved roadways that need to be maintained in the summer and plowed in the winter, kept safe from the application of sand and salt, which will runoff into the soil and streams with every spring thaw.

There are a lot of streams and brooks around the state of Maine, and a large portion of them comes into contact with the human population in some form or another. We can’t help that, we need to expand if we are to grow. But what we can do is to mitigate eventual destruction of habitat by planning for that future outcome today. By swapping land parcels around and pretending to be environmentally conscious, we are, in reality, hastening the destruction of truly valuable pieces of habitat. This swap and trade program being peddled by The Nature Conservancy needs to come to an end. If they, as an environmental organization, wish to preserve habitat, they should do so. But it should not be at the taxpayer’s expense. And in Maine, that is exactly what this Plum Creek conservation plan is going to come to down the road. Endangered habitat and higher tax burdens to pay for it.

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