GREENVILLE – Plum Creek Timber Co., the second-largest land owner in Maine, plans to sell 89 camp lots on First Roach Pond near Moosehead Lake, raising concerns among conservationists.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine expressed fear that the sale is a prelude to future sales in which Plum Creek cuts up its lakefront properties and sells them to the highest bidders.
If that happens, it will change the north woods forever, said Pete Didisheim, advocacy director of the NRCM.
“We are very concerned about the long-term plans that Plum Creek has for Maine,” Didisheim said. “What does this mean for Maine’s north woods?”
Jim Lehner, general manager of the Northeast region for Plum Creek, said the plan for First Roach Pond will guarantee that most of the land forever remains wild and open to the public. The company plans to submit an application to Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission on Wednesday regarding its plans.
The plan calls for selling 62 shorefront lots and another 27 back camp lots covering a total of 435 acres. There already are 100-plus camps on the lake.
Lehner would not say what the company expects the sales prices to be.
But, the company says it will place another 1,010 acres into a conservation easement and protect a total of 11.5 miles of lake frontage.
“This is just the opposite of what they’re saying,” Lehner said. “We’re guaranteeing access for the public, in perpetuity.”
Plum Creek, which is based in Seattle, owns 905,000 acres of timberland in the state that it bought in 1999 from Sappi Ltd. Altogether it owns 3.2 million acres in Maine, Louisiana, Arkansas, Washington, Idaho and Montana.
Conservationists and others are concerned that since Plum Creek is a publicly held company – and a real estate investment trust at that – it will chop up much of its prime lakefront land.
Didisheim said the NRCM is pleased Plum Creek will be putting some of its First Roach Pond land into conservation easements.
But, he added, the fact that Plum Creek is in the real estate business means it will sell other properties along the way to maximize profits for shareholders.
“We are concerned that the interests of the shareholders of this company will take precedence over the interests of the people in Maine,” he said.
Lehner said those fears are unfounded. A couple of years ago, Plum Creek sold the state a 500-foot strip of land along 65 miles of shore frontage on Moosehead Lake.
“I think when the dust settles, and it will, the lion’s share of the Maine public will see this as a very positive thing,” he said.