Muzzy feels good about Plum Creek revisions

This story was published on April 29, 2006 on Page D1 in all editions of the Bangor Daily News

Luke Muzzy has heard the criticism. He knows there are people who viewed Plum Creek Timber Company’s first development plan as a mere rough draft that was tossed to the public to see which ideas stuck … and which stuck in the collective Maine craw.

Muzzy, the senior land asset manager for Plum Creek, says that assessment is neither fair nor accurate.

“The hardest thing for me, personally, with this job, has been with the people who try to speak for what we’re doing when they don’t,” Muzzy said. “We thought we had put out a very, very good plan. We never did anything other than submit a plan thinking we were going to get it approved.”

Ultimately, that initial plan was withdrawn and revised. On Thursday, a new, improved version was filed with the Land Use Regulation Commission.

All 1,000-plus pages of it.

The chances of you, or me, (or most anybody else who isn’t required to do so) reading every word of the detailed document is probably pretty slim.

We’ll skim. We’ll look at graphs and maps and charts. We’ll read some of the proposal … but not all.

And then we’ll listen to those with a stake in the matter (and those with axes to grind) and base our judgments on what we hear.

There are some who will tell you the plan is the best thing ever to happen in the Moosehead Lake region. There are others who will claim Plum Creek’s long-term blueprint will signal the end of the Maine woods as we know them.

The truth (as it so often is) is probably somewhere in the middle.

To Muzzy and those who have worked with him, the new Plum Creek plan is an example of what can happen when a large company has a vision for its future but is still willing to listen to opposing views.

“It’s been a bumpy road every now and then, of course, but it’s been pretty rewarding, too,” Muzzy said. “Most times when you have a development you don’t see the public really being engaged. The developer will go out, take his land, and figure out what’s best for him. In this case, we’re trying to figure out what’s best for us, the community, and the state of Maine.”

Muzzy, it’s important to note, isn’t a hired gun “from away.”

He grew up in Greenville, and his children are the fifth generation to grow up in the same house in town. He knows the town and the area, and didn’t take his job with Plum Creek to get rich.

In fact, he points out, he had done very well in business and actually took a pay cut in order to help shape the future of the region he loves.

“It was worth it to me to give up what I had,” Muzzy said.

And it was important to realize that Greenville and the Moosehead region were in trouble.

“Our school system has lost 150 kids in the past 10 years,” he said. “Our high school is down to 91 kids, the first time under 100 in a generation.

“What’s been interesting is that people have figured out change is happening,” he said. “Not just our plans. It’s been happening for the past 20 years and it’s been happening in a way that hasn’t really been good for the communities.”

That, it would seem, is a piece of common ground that Plum Creek and many of its potential critics can share.

Finding other points of consensus may be more difficult … or it may not.

That’s what LURC’s review process will determine.

Muzzy is one of the point people in Plum Creek’s efforts. He helped craft the plan and has traveled the state explaining the changes that have been made.

He’s especially proud of the fact that when Mainers said they were disappointed with lack of permanent conservation elements in the first plan, the company listened and changed direction.

“Really, the last six months we went back to the drawing board and decided that if we’re going to do development, we’re going to have to balance it with permanent conservation,” Muzzy said.

As a result, about 400,000 acres of company land are targeted for conservation. In addition, Plum Creek abandoned development plans on remote ponds and targeted the local ski resort as an area that would be a hub of development activity.

In the months ahead, the Plum Creek proposal will be dissected by many divergent groups. Mainers should pay close attention to the details and make their opinions known.

They should also realize that in the end, it may turn out that nobody’s completely satisfied. That’s the way compromise works.

“Is it a perfect plan for everybody? No, of course not,” Muzzy said. “Frankly, in our opinion, we’ve compromised a great deal from the first plan, but it’s all about creating a balance. We think we’ve crafted something that works for the long term and is good for our shareholders as well. And it’s a very delicate balance.”

Turkey season opens

Long before the sun peeks over the horizon this morning, an odd phenomenon will take place in households across the state.

Teenagers (and plenty of boys and girls even younger than that) will wake up, hop out of bed, and begin preparing for the day ahead. And (here’s the odd part) they’ll do so eagerly.

If you’re the parent of a hard-to-wake-up teen or two, you may have a hard time believing that.

But if you’re the parent of a young turkey hunter, you already know it’s true.

This morning is Youth Turkey Day, a special day created by the state legislature to give the state’s youngsters first crack at a wild turkey.

Hunters who are older than 10 and younger than 16, and who possess a junior hunting license, can hunt under the supervision of an adult today.

The supervisory adult must hold a valid Maine hunting license or have completed a hunter safety course and may not possess a firearm.

The rest of us, of course, will have to wait a bit.

For those lucky enough to have been born in an even-numbered year, that wait will be short: Wild turkey season will begin a half-hour before sunrise on Monday.

Those even-year hunters can head afield from Monday through Saturday, or take their chances from May 22-27 or May 29-June 3.

Those who were born in odd-numbered years will hunt from May 8-20 and from May 29-June 3.

Only bearded turkeys may be shot, and turkey hunting is open in southern and central Maine, in Wildlife Management Districts 10 through 18 and 20 through 26.

According to a guide I spoke with on Thursday, wildlife biologists cautioned him that they’ve been seeing plenty of male turkeys that might confuse hunters.

In certain areas there are a lot of young males which have yet to grow a beard … and which would be illegal to shoot.

Properly identification of your bird, therefore, is imperative.

A year ago 23,951 turkey hunters bought permits and 6,326 hunters were successful.

For those (like me) who didn’t bag a bird, this may be their lucky year.

Call better … hunt safe … have fun.

And be sure to let me know how your hunt went. I expect to tell you a few turkey-hunting tales in the weeks ahead.

John Holyoke can be reached at jholyoke@bangordailynews.net or by calling 990-8214 or 1-800-310-8600.

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