Owner (Plum Creek) outlines big plan for land
Mike Yencha, and others up north - What do you make of this latest development?
By MATT WICKENHEISER, Portland Press Herald WriterCopyright Â© 2004 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.
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RECENT MAINE LAND SALES
RECENT MAINE LAND SALES 1999: The Timber Co., a subsidiary of the Georgia-Pacific Corp., completes the sale of nearly 440,000 acres in northern and eastern Maine to an institutional investor for nearly $51 million. The announcement does not identify the partners in the investment group but says the land will be managed by Wagner Forest Management Ltd. of Lyme, N.H.
International Paper Co. sells 245,000 acres of timberland surrounding 10 miles of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway to Clayton Lake Woodlands LLC.2003: MeadWestvaco Corp. reaches an agreement to sell 629,000 acres in Maine and New Hampshire to a group of anonymous buyers for more than $125 million as part of the company's effort to reduce debt. MeadWestvaco, which owns a paper mill in Rumford and is based in Stamford, Conn., said the sale includes 518,000 acres in Maine and 111,000 acres in New Hampshire. 2004: International Paper Company sells its forestland in Maine and New Hampshire, a total of about 1.1 million acres, to a private forest investment company, GMO Renewable Resources, for $250 million. IP, based in Stamford, Conn., says the sale should be completed by the first quarter of 2005.
Staff researchers Susan Butler, Beth Murphy
PLUM CREEK TIMBER COMPANY INC. is the second-largest private timberland owner in the United States, with 8 million acres in the northwestern, southern and northeastern regions of the country.
THE COMPANY HARVESTS both old- and new-growth timber. It produces lumber, plywood, wood dust and medium-density fiberboard through subsidiaries. Plum Creek also has land management and real estate sales operations.
HEADQUARTERS: Seattle, Wash.
2003 SALES: $1.196 billion
2003 NET INCOME: $192 million
2003 EMPLOYEES: 2,040
CHAIRMAN: David D. Leland
PRESIDENT, CEO AND DIRECTOR: Richard R. Holley To top of story
Plum Creek Timber Co., one of Maine's largest landholders, will seek state permission to develop two "destination resorts" and 800 to 1,200 camp lots in the Moosehead Lake region.The proposed deal, thought to be the largest shorefront development plan the state has ever seen, includes a number of conservation incentives. For example, it would give the state permanent trail rights and shorefront conservation status to more than 50 undeveloped, "pristine" ponds in the area.Beyond its size, the plan is significant because the land is part of Maine's western wilderness and has potential both for development and for conservation.The plan, which Plum Creek hopes to submit to the state's Land Use Regulation Commission in late January, involves a total of 465,000 acres. A total of 14,000 acres would be developed, including 6,000 acres for camp lots, 6,000 acres for the two resorts, 1,000 acres for a business park in Greenville and 1,000 acres for low-income housing in the same town.The remaining 451,000 acres would be subject to a 30-year forest management plan that would allow Plum Creek to continue cutting trees on the property but preclude further development, essentially preserving the land as it is.Plum Creek President and Chief Executive Officer Richard R. Holley said the project represents "certainty" for a vast area of Maine's woodlands. "This is the plan; there's no phases," said Holley.The 465,000 acres include 48,500 acres that Plum Creek is buying from Hancock Timber Resource Group of Boston in a deal expected to close by year's end. Plum Creek will own 953,000 acres in Maine after the deal closes.Environmental groups were guarded but hopeful about Plum Creek's announcement. While the state Department of Conservation was optimistic about the proposal, it clearly viewed the plan as daunting."We're worried that when we see it, we're not going to have the ability to process it because it is so big," said Conservation Commissioner Patrick McGowan.McGowan said this is the largest shorefront development plan the state has ever seen. In addition to this proposal, the LURC has many other applications for the 10 million acres of unorganized territory it oversees, said McGowan.The plan contains a proposal to sell the state two pieces of land, one south of Jackman and one east of Kokadjo. McGowan said the area includes spots the state has eyed for a while, including the No. 5 Bog, Bald Mountain Pond and areas of the Roach Ponds.McGowan said the state's fund for buying conservation lands is empty, although Gov. John Baldacci is planning to seek a bond issue to provide additional money in 2005."We've got to have a land bond that puts us at the table with people like Plum Creek," McGowan said.Plum Creek's plans include the permanent addition of 43 miles of public hiking/cross-country skiing trails and 74.5 miles of snowmobile trails.James K. Lehner, Plum Creek's general manager of the Northeast region, said the camp lots would be concentrated in areas that are already developed, mostly around Long Pond and Brassua Lake, with some isolated lots off Spencer Bay on Moosehead.Clustering the lots in already developed areas is intended make the plan more palatable to the state and environmental groups, Lehner said. The exact size of the lots hasn't been established, but a smaller project on First Roach Pond has lot sizes of two to five acres, said Lehner. According to the Department of Conservation, waterfront lots in the area sell for about $100,000 per 1.5 acres.The two "destination resorts" are still conceptual, said Holley, but would attract snowmobilers, hikers and campers to a lodge type of building. There might be a golf course on the property as well.Plum Creek is considering two locations for the resorts, one between Brassua lake and Moosehead and one off Moosehead's Lily Bay, the site of a state park. Plum Creek would either sell the land to a resort developer or would work on a joint venture with a developer, said Holley.Both the Maine Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Council of Maine said they were pleased with Plum Creek's plan to negotiate with the state to sell tracts of conservation land. The Sierra Club said land the state could buy involves key parts of the Appalachian Trail wilderness.The Natural Resources Council said the overall plan still raised many questions."This is a really important area of the state. This is a huge proposal," said Cathy Johnson, North Woods project director for the Council. "I think we all need to look at the specifics of this very carefully and make sure the conservation is permanent and make sure the amount of the development they're proposing is not going to forever change the face of the Moosehead Region." Johnson said the Council would like to see the 451,000 acres that Plum Creek is putting into a 30-year forest management plan instead put into a conservation easement. That would make conservation of the land permanent, while allowing the same forestry use."Hopefully, we can talk to them and work out permanent conservation," she said.Johnson said the Council has had its "ups and downs" with Plum Creek. Development on First Roach Pond in the Moosehead Region has turned the once-remote area into a suburb of Greenville, she said.Jym St. Pierre, Maine director of Restore: The North Woods, said Plum Creek's pending purchase of 48,000 acres will make it the third-largest land owner in Maine.Plum Creek has taken heat in the West and Northwest for its forest management practices, said St. Pierre, but has been fairly clean in its work in Maine over the past six years."I think from what I've seen in the last half-dozen years, in fairness, I would say they've been more careful with their public image than the previous owners of these lands," he said. St. Pierre's group is pushing for a federal park in the North Woods. Part of the land involved in the Plum Creek plan would have been part of such an area, said St. Pierre.Jack Cashman, Maine's commissioner of economic development, said the state's objective is "to promote a sustainable forest program . . . in an environmentally sound way. If you do those two things, then the forest will also enhance our tourism initiatives."McGowan said he is looking forward to "working with the community in Greenville and the surrounding areas to plan a long-term economic future that might be different from what they've seen in the last century." Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:firstname.lastname@example.org