Land swap strikes balance; 24,400 acres swapped near Baxter State Park

This story was published on Oct. 27, 2005 on Page A1 in all editions of the Bangor Daily News

North Woods conservationists and businessmen on Wednesday hailed a 24,400-acre land swap between preservationist and Burt’s Bees millionaire Roxanne Quimby and logger William T. Gardner that they say balanced environmental, business and sportsmen’s interests.

“We congratulate the parties for coming to terms on this,” Deputy Commissioner Karen Tilberg of the state Department of Conservation said Wednesday. “From what we know, this is a win-win for them. It appears to meet both of their objectives.”

“It’s a good balance and hopefully one that will become less rare,” said Jim Page, president of James Sewall Co. of Old Town, a forestry consulting firm that helped arrange the deal.

As part of the deal reached on Tuesday, Gardner’s logging businesses get 14,000 acres of Township 5, Range 8 northeast of the Penobscot River’s East Branch, land already bisected with logging roads and good wood crops.

Hunters, fishermen, snowmobile riders and skiers will be allowed there.

Quimby receives 10,400 acres of Township 4, Range 8 northeast of the environmentally fragile and less accessible Wassataquoik Stream, which is east of a Baxter State Park border and therefore, in line with her goals of protecting the park and areas around it.

The transaction involved no cash or other considerations, said Tom Gardner, vice president of Gardner Land Co. of Lincoln, and William T. Gardner’s son.

“Logistically, it made more sense for both parties to swap,” Gardner said. “It gives her the conservation land that she wanted for her goals, and she had to give us the opportunity to harvest wood on the lands there from an easier logistic or operational standpoint. We’re trying to look out for our employees and the economy of this area.”

The access is vital to his company’s logging operations, Gardner said. About 25 percent of his company’s 200 loggers and other workers use that area.

“I really don’t think it will help her cause, to get a national park up there,” Gardner said. “It might help her cause to work with the Baxter people, though.”

Millinocket Town Manager Eugene Conlogue, former chairman of the Maine Woods Coalition, a group that opposes a national park in the state’s northern forest, said he wanted to study the swap before commenting. Coalition Chairwoman Ann Mitchell could not be reached for comment.

Quimby said she liked the deal because it helped prevent a culture war between her and area sportsmen and residents who couldn’t access snowmobile trails, a sportsmen’s hunting camp, or bring wood off their own properties until she gave up the 14,000 acres.

“That was a big motivator,” Quimby said. “The T4 R8 lands also were really environmentally less disturbed than the other lands I owned. This is one of the first times I have been able to save a piece of property before it got cut.”

Founder of Burt’s Bees and a national park advocate, Quimby bought Township 5, Range 8, which she has named “East Branch Sanctuary,” as well as the northern third of Township 3, Range 7, which she calls “Three Rivers Sanctuary,” from Irving two years ago.

Both properties are being managed as nature preserves by Elliotsville Plantation Inc., Quimby’s Portland-based company.

The Gardners might be involved in another swap or land transaction by mid-2006, Gardner said, involving about 6,000 acres of Township 3, Range 8 near Katahdin Lake and the state and a third party he would not name.

Quimby said she has no new deals in the works, but hopes the swap might lead to more land being preserved.

“There are some little out-parcels that might be more easily traded because they are more isolated now than they were and it might be easier to trade them rather than to pursue cutting there,” she said.

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