Last month, the state’s plan to acquire land around Katahdin Lake to add to Baxter State Park became more complicated when preservationist Roxanne Quimby bought adjacent land. The state quickly put the project back on track by deciding to build a road across state land to access the Katahdin Lake parcel. With the access question at least partially settled, the deal should move forward as the Legislature intended.
Early this year, the state reached agreement with a logging company to add land surrounding Katahdin Lake to Baxter State Park, fulfilling Gov. Baxter’s vision for the park. The original deal encompassed 6,000 acres, all of which the Baxter Park Authority intended to manage as sanctuary, which meant no hunting. It also included money to buy good hunting land elsewhere.
The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine convinced several lawmakers to oppose the deal if hunting were not allowed everywhere on the parcel. A compromise was reached, with the southern 4,000 acres around the lake going to Baxter and 2,000 acres in the north to be managed by the Bureau of Parks and Lands for hunting and other recreational uses. This arrangement was approved by the Legislature last spring.
Earlier this month, the state learned that conservationist Roxanne Quimby had purchased 25,000 acres south of the Katahdin Lake parcel. She bought the land, says her science director Bart DeWolf, because she knew the state couldn’t – it didn’t have the money and developers were eager to acquire it.
Because Ms. Quimby has forbidden motorized access on her other acreage, sportsmen feared her purchase would make it impossible to get to the new state land north of Katahdin Lake.
Within two weeks, the Department of Conservation met with other large landowners in the region to ensure they will continue to allow use of their logging roads and access to their land. The governor also directed the department to build a short road across from a public reserved land unit near Wassataquoik Stream to allow the public to get to hunting grounds without crossing Ms. Quimby’s land. The road will cross private land, so sportsmen are right that this may not be a permanent solution.
However, the state currently holds an option to buy 8,000 acres next to Ms. Quimby’s land. The new road would cross this land. State ownership of the land will ensure continued access to the Katahdin Lake parcel and other portions could be used to initiate a swap with Ms. Quimby that could substantially increase the amount of land in the area for hunting and motorized recreation. Neither is a possibility if the state doesn’t own it.
Rather than nitpicking the Katahdin Lake deal, which requires $14 million in private funds, which are currently being raised, sportsmen should ensure lawmakers and the public pass a bond issue targeted at acquiring the 8,000 acres.