By Phyllis Austin, Maine Environmental News (www.meepi.org). 6/20/03
While conservationists and the state are waiting to hear Irving Woodlands’ response to their proposal to acquire key East Branch lands, Maine’s largest logging contractor/landowner business has purchased Irving’s ownership in two townships in the vicinity.
Herb Haynes and his son, Jay Haynes, bought Irving’s interest in 12,500 acres of Township 5 Range 7 and Township 4 Range 7 on the east side of the East Branch three weeks ago, confirms Chuck Gadzik, Maine operations manager for New Brunswick-based Irving. The townships are held in the old "common and undivided" ownership with other parties.
Gadzik wouldn’t disclose the sale price, but other sources indicated it was about $6 million, or $475 an acre. The sale is "evidence of Herb Haynes’ continuing interest in pieces of the Maine woods," says Karin Tilberg, deputy commissioner of the Department of Conservation (DOC). "Given the lands’ proximity to Baxter State Park and other important resources, we hope they will be managed sustainably."
Herb Haynes and his three children work together, and there are several corporate entities that operate different aspects of the business, from timber cutting to subdivision sales. The Hayneses are influential players in the woods industry. For years, patriarch Herb Haynes kept a low profile until the big pulp and paper companies began selling off their ownerships. In a strategic business move, he began buying up tens of thousands of acres of timberland, mostly in central and eastern Maine, expanding and diversifying his operations substantially. Haynes’ modus operandi was to purchase forest tracts, strip them of timber to what the maximum the law allowed and sell it quickly for a profit to smaller contractors or subdivide it for house lots.
In the 90s, when the practice of cut, strip and subdivide increased, Haynes developed a public reputation as Maine’s most notorious forest liquidator and stirred controversy over abusive cutting practices and sustainable forestry alternatives. The legislature recently enacted a Baldacci administration bill aimed at substantially eliminating liquidation. It authorizes the DOC’s forestry bureau to propose rules to stop the cutting of valuable timber and then subdividing the parcel within five years. At the present, an estimated six to eight percent of Maine’s forests (about 30,000 to 45,000 acres) are subject to liquidation harvests annually.
Gadzik defends Haynes as having "great standing in the community. I’ve worked with Herb and Jay for 20-some years, and they play a critical role" in keeping a lot of people employed, he says.
Irving, the state’s largest landowner, is selling another 78,000 acres in four townships, as well as 43,000 acres in the Allagash Wilderness Waterway area. The townships that Irving owns solely – T5R8; T4R3; R2R8 – are of great interest to conservationists, as well as two other townships of which Irving is part owner – T4R8 and T2R8. All four townships border the rugged east side of Baxter State Park, the state’s premier wilderness area. They hold ecological and recreational resources that are of great public value, as confirmed by surveys and current uses.
Gadzik says the two townships sold to the Hayneses were of "less interest to the state and conservationists and so we put it on a little faster track" for disposal than the other East Branch lands. Irving’s percentage of ownership was centered in the southern half of T5R7 and all but the northwest corner of T4R7and sold in fee to the Hayneses with "no stipulations" and no existing conservation easements.
(Photo credit http://www.viewsfromabove.com)
The East Branch cuts through the southwest corner of T4R7, and the Sebois River runs through both townships that Haynes acquired. The Maine Rivers Study notes that the East Branch and the Sebois represents "one of the greatest concentrations of geological and hydrological features in the state." In T5R7 lie Little Bolin Pond and the more famous Shin Pond. In T4R7 on the west side of the East Branch sits Lunksoos Mt., with 300 acres of "enriched outcroppings and hardwoods," says the state’s critical areas survey. The lands reportedly are well-stocked with merchantable timber, compared to some Irving lands adjacent to Baxter Park that have been heavily cut.
As for the other East Branch lands, Gadzik says, "We’ve been clear that we are under a short time line to sell those lands. At this point there is no certain outcome."
Irving met with state officials in June, 2002, to determine the state’s interest in the East Branch townships. But then-commissioner of Conservation Ron Lovaglio told Irving that it would take the state six months to develop a detailed proposal and another two years "to get to a formal closing."
As former director of the Maine Forest Service, Gadzik knew how slowly the state moves on land purchases and was dubious that the department could act as quickly as Irving wanted to sell the lands. However, after Irving’s plans to sale became public last fall, the state and the non-profit Trust for Public Lands began working on proposal.
Now, according to Sam Hodder, director of TPL’s Maine office, "TPL, in cooperation with the state has made an offer." It was presented "very recently," he says. "We think it is reasonable," he adds, declining to discuss details of the proposal.
Baxter State Park has not been involved in acquisition talks because of lack of money to expand the park and other issues. But individual conservationists, such as wilderness advocate/businessman Charles FitzGerald, have expressed their interest in purchasing some of the lands themselves or participating with the state and TPL. FitzGerald recently became the new owner of Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps in T3R8 on land leased from Irving. He has talked to Gadzik about acquiring lands under and around his sporting camps, around the lake and along remote Wassataquoik Stream.