August 23, 2019

Would you vote for a multi-million dollar bond to purchase lands so the people of Maine could have more access to lakes, streams and woodlands? The poll-takers say that practically everyone thinks that is a good idea.

Let us consider this question. First, the Land for Maine’s Future Program, through which your money would be spent, is woefully lacking from top to bottom in professionally trained staff to handle even the simplest acquisition project. Secondly, the LMFP may turn its acquisitions over to conservationists as has been done in the past instead of contracting out to unbiased professionals.

In 1989, Kent Wommack, director of The Nature Conservancy, negotiated an option agreement with a paper company to purchase 29,000 acres in the Nahmakanta Lake area. The agreement allowed the Appalachian Trail to buy the entire perimeter of the lake. The AT will never allow a boat launch on the shore of this great pond. Today, one must drag a boat 400 feet to get it onto the lake. Besides this, there is no deeded access to the parcel. The option agreement was signed by TNC and the paper company in June, 1990 and the Land for Maine’s Future Board approved $1.7 million of your money to pay for it three months later.

Wommack has “purchased” another parcel of 185,000 acres in the St. John River area from the paper companies which looks suspiciously similar to the Nahmakanta deal. The TNC has already paid market value for cutover woodland. There are no large lakes of any note in the parcel and the St. John becomes a bony trickle during summer months. There is no legal access to this property either.

Even if there were something there for the people, the nearest gate is 72 miles to the east over treacherous logging roads. TNC was given quit-claim deeds to the property that contain so many “subject to” clauses and reservations that it makes one wonder what Wommack bought for $35.1 million. According to Wommack, “clear-cutting and herbicides spraying … will continue. … Any lands that are going to be preserved, we need to raise money to pay for.” Let us hope the director of LMFP is not duped into using any of our money for another bad deal like the Nahmakanta and others. Until such assurances are received, I would not vote a penny for the bonds. Paul Hanson Argyle

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