MILLINOCKET – Wealthy environmentalist Roxanne Quimby is expected to meet today with sportsmen and Millinocket town officials to discuss measures that might create greater public access within the proposed Katahdin Lake land swap and land she owns.
She requested the private meeting and asked that it be held in Old Town, Millinocket Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said Thursday during a Town Council meeting. It will be a rare meeting between Quimby, whose preservationist land purchases have raised the ire of sportsmen and politicians around the state, and many of those same opponents.
“The opportunity to meet with her face to face is a positive,” Conlogue said.
Quimby could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
The Maine Snowmobile Association, Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and other groups have been invited to the meeting to see whether a compromise can be reached with Quimby, Conlogue said. He will attend with Millinocket Town Councilor Wallace Paul, whom Chairman David Nelson appointed to represent the council.
State government officials who helped arrange the land swap are not invited, Conlogue said. Conlogue said Quimby told him during a telephone conversation earlier this week that she “thought that a group of interested parties might have more luck,” he said.
Early last month, Quimby purchased 23,000 acres within Township 3 Range 8 and Township 2 Range 8 east of Baxter State Park for slightly more than $10 million, raising fears among sportsmen and loggers that the purchase would deprive them of access to private and public lands they have used for decades.
The recent acquisition reignited debate over Katahdin Lake, the subject of a weeks-long legislative brawl last winter between conservationists and sportsmen. Leaders of SAM and MSA contend that Quimby’s purchase should change the terms of the Katahdin Lake deal, which set aside 2,000 acres of the 6,000-acre parcel for hunting and other “traditional uses.”
The lake deal was financed through a combination of private donations and public dollars generated from the sale of state-owned forests. While the southern 4,000 acres will become part of Baxter State Park, the northern 2,000 acres will be managed by the Bureau of Parks and Lands.
Local leaders fear such purchases have a cumulative effect and deprive the region of room to maintain industry and to stimulate new business the region needs. Quimby’s purchase gave her a total of about 90,000 acres of preserved land, state officials said.
Thursday, councilors seemed receptive to the Quimby meeting and didn’t object to Paul representing them, but Councilors Matthew Polstein and Bruce McLean appeared miffed that more councilors would not be attending.
Polstein said he has worked hard to facilitate dialogue with Quimby and environmentalists over the last nine months. He denied criticism from resident Alyce Maragus that he was working in his own interests as the developer of a $50 million resort on Hammond Ridge and not in the town’s. He said he hoped that perception wasn’t shared by other councilors or Conlogue.
“It’s been my history to suggest a full and open dialogue [on this issue] and … it seems like the full and open dialogue isn’t ready to occur,” he said.
Nelson clamped down hard on Maragus when she attempted to read excerpts from letters Polstein wrote to Quimby discussing her potential land purchases. Maragus said she believes the letters show Polstein’s self-interest, while Polstein maintains that he was being quoted out of context.
“Everyone has an opinion on this,” McLean said of Quimby’s impact upon the region. “It would be good instead of having two people to ask if the entire council could meet perhaps.
“I don’t think too much of having two people go. I think it’s a good choice but not the best choice,” he added.
Nelson said he picked Paul because he was knowledgeable and available. He felt minimal council representation was best. Conlogue and Paul would take no action without consulting with the council, he said.
Paul is a council moderate on Quimby and land purchases, with Councilors Jimmy Busque and David Cyr hard-liners against preservationist purchases. McLean and Polstein have advocated working with environmentalists to see whether compromise is possible.
Busque said he hoped the meeting would be helpful, but sounded doubtful. He recalled being told years ago by West Coast forestry advocates that preservationists eventually would threaten Maine’s forestry industry, a prediction that he said seems to be coming true.
Councilor Scott Gonya said leadership dictates meeting with Quimby.
“There probably isn’t one of us here that thought she would call on us,” he said. “We should be thankful that she wants to meet with us. We have to deal with her. And now it looks like this would be a positive approach.”