Things have been pretty quiet for the last few weeks. Almost like they’ve patiently waiting for an answer from the LURC. I presume they probably think they know what the answer is already. But they haven’t been sitting around waiting, like a farmer in a rainstorm when the crops have got to get out of the ground. They’ve been busy little beavers over in Montana.

According to the Missoulian newspaper, Jim Lehner, formerly poking around the backwoods of Maine as Plum Creek’s spokesperson, has landed a new position with the grand old company of the west. Returning to his home grounds in Montana, where he started out with PC as a forester, he’s returned with a new title, and a new development plan to promote.

His new position, as national director of community affairs, puts him in an interesting position. Kind of like the dummy in the cowboy and Indian movies that gets picked to stick his head above the wagon to see where them injuns is, or so I would suspect the job to be. As spokesman he gets to be the front man when the press attacks, keeping the corporate fellows safely behind the wagon.

The new Plum Creek plan is to develop an area around Whitefish Lake, specifically the Lazy and Swift Rivers. While details are not forthcoming, the articles relates how a dialog was started with Montana’s Department of Natural Resources about getting the land properly zoned for residential use.

It seems Plum Creek has smartened up a bit from lessons learned here in the Pine Tree State, though. This time around, they ain’t giving the public any maps. No special reports or proposals to let the good people of Montana what’s going to happen to them. The Missoulian quotes Lehner as saying “…In some areas, we do know where we’re going to sell land,” he said. “In other areas, we don’t.”

Kinda puts it in perspective doesn’t it? Yup, says PC, we’re gonna build. But we’re gonna keep it from you until it’s too late for you to stop us. At least that’s what I get out of a statement like that. Lehner also went on to say that 50% of Plum Creek’s income now comes from land sales, and that they are changing their business model to keep up with the changing business environment.

The article ends with Lehner saying …“the land value is becoming higher throughout the United States for residential properties.” There is, he said, “real opportunity there.” Interesting point about big timber and the land they own. I wonder how long it will be before the other bi timber companies will follow suit and start to sell of their more attractive properties to trophy homebuilders.

But even so, this article isn’t the one that primarily caught my interest. Remember a couple of months ago I posted a bit about the clear cutting Plum Creek did in Washington, and how it related to the fines they received for clear cutting in Maine? Well, the property they hold in and around Mt. Rainier National park could be logged. Which, I guess would make the mountains bald on both sides of the Carbon River Valley, making them look equal. Nah. Not a good look for a mountain at all.

It seems that all across the nation, federal park lands are being held hostage by wealthy land owners like Plum Creek, even in Gettysburg National Park, where commercial developers are chomping at the bit to gobble up the land.

Les Blumenthal of the Bellingham Herald had this to say about the situation…

At Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state, the major concern is the status of 440 acres owned by Plum Creek Timber Co. along the scenic Carbon River Valley.
Plum Creek has no immediate plans to log the tract and would like to see it protected, said Kathy Budinick, a company spokeswoman.
The Trust for Public Land has negotiated an option to buy the tract, but eventually Congress must appropriate money for the National Park Service to purchase it outright.
Even so, Sean Smith, Northwest regional director for NPCA, said there are no guarantees the land ultimately would be protected.
“We don’t want to paint Plum Creek as a villain,” said Smith. “They are negotiating. But they can’t wait forever and they shouldn’t be expected to wait forever. Eventually it could be logged.”
Peter Dykstra, Washington state director of the Trust for Public Land, said providing federal funding to purchase tracts like the one owned by Plum Creek is imperative.
“It is critical to get funding to get these parcels in National Park Service ownership,” Dykstra said.
The Plum Creek parcel became part of the park when the park’s northwest boundary was extended in 2004. The Carbon River Valley contains one of the last inland old-growth rain forests in the United States and includes prime habitat for such endangered and threatened species as the northern spotted owl, the marbled murrelet and Chinook salmon.
The 440-acre Plum Creek holding is part of more than 800 acres of privately held land in the expansion. The Cascade Land Conservancy also has been interested in protecting those acres, said Randy King, Mount Rainier’s deputy superintendent.
“It’s a holding strategy until Congress appropriates the money,” King said, though adding private lands in the park are “subject to sale to any willing buyer.”
The purchase price of the Plum Creek tract and the other privately held acreage is between $3.5 million and $4 million, King said. The estimate is based on current timber values.
About $1 million already has been appropriated to begin land purchases.
As chairman of the House interior appropriations subcommittee, Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., has control over the National Park Service budget and funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
“Logging is not an acceptable use in a national park,” George Behan, a Dicks spokesman, said of the situation at Mount Rainier.
Behan said Dicks will try to increase funding to purchase private lands in the national parks, including Mount Rainier, but money is tight and the White House in the past has threatened to veto any appropriation that exceeded its budget request.
I wonder what will happen here in Maine down the road when we get into that barrel of snakes. And we will eventually get to a place where we have to buy Plum Creek Land if we don’t want any more development”

And as an update to another Plum Creek post, this one about the Gopher Tortoise’s down in Florida, a press release from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commission has this to say about Plum Creeks commitment to habitat conservation…….

Alachua County, Florida – The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Plum Creek Timber Company took a major step Wednesday to set up a new home for 1,781 gopher tortoises displaced by development.
A 570-acre site has been established within the Lochloosa Conservation Easement, near Orange Lake in Alachua County, for relocating tortoises.
FWC has a management plan now in place to make sure the gopher tortoises are protected from development. In the past, developers would pave or build over gopher tortoise holes with the tortoises inside.
The overall goal of the management plan is to restore and maintain secure, viable populations of gopher tortoises throughout the species’ current range in Florida.
According to Plum Creek officials, the company is working with the St. Johns River Water Management District to expand the gopher tortoise relocation site to include all 16,470 acres of the Lake Lochloosa Conservation Easement Area. That could allow for approximately 17,000 gopher tortoises to be relocated. There is no other site of this size in Central Florida.
Plum Creek is the largest and most geographically diverse private landowner in the nation with more than 8 million acres of timberlands in the United States.
The company owns and manages more than 600,000 acres of forestland in 22 counties in Florida and is the second largest private landowner in the state.
Plum Creek is a leader in developing Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) – complex, long-term management plans directed at protecting key species but also protecting many other forest-dependent wildlife species.
Nearly 2.7 million acres of company lands are involved in wildlife protection agreements throughout the country.

So let me see, Plum Creek brags about protecting wildlife with having 2.7 million acres being placed in wildlife protection agreements, but they could care less about wildlife habitat? Is that what this is really saying? Plum Creek cares so much about protecting endangered species that they are willing to rip 1,781 Gopher tortoises from their own habitat and dump them in a place that is certainly strange, and may not be suited for them? And they eventually plan to move up to 17,000 tortoises. Just so some rich developers can lay down pavement and build fancy homes along a scenic waterway.

I don’t know about you, but like I’ve said before, the more I read about all of this conservation easement stuff between TNC and big timber owners, the less I like it. And now we have some Italian guy wanting to turn Schoodic point into a rich pansy boy playground. I think I’ll have to start looking into that one.

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