By Phyllis Austin, Maine Environmental News (www.meepi.org). 9/15/06
(Go to Phyllis Austin Reports for background information on this story.)
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Roxanne Quimby intends to manage her newly acquired parcel bordering Baxter State Park as a "nature sanctuary", just like her other Maine lands. That means no harvesting, no hunting and trapping and no motorized access. "My first priority is to protect wildlife and plants," the entrepreneur/philanthropist said Thursday.
Quimby’s quest to preserve resource-rich wildlands on Baxter’s eastern border has been a four-year effort so far, and she now owns a total of 53,700 acres next to or near the park. The lands in six townships (four of them on the East Branch of the Penobscot River) are now in different stages of recovering from heavy harvesting by their forest cover by previous owners.
Quimby envisions that her cutover lands will eventually equal the wilderness character of the forest in Baxter Park, Maine’s premier "forever wild" preserve. Most of the park’s lands were also subjected to extensive harvesting prior to acquisition by Percival P. Baxter. Quimby, co-founder of Burt’s Bees Inc., the successful natural skin, cosmetics and body products company, has the financial resources to keep adding to her conservation holdings. She is interested in acquiring a key parcel bordering Baxter and located between two of her properties in T5R8 and T4R8.
On Sept. 1, Quimby paid $10 million ($435 an acre) to H. H. Haynes and R. A. Crawford for 23,000 acres – the southern half of Township 3, Range 8, and the northern half of Township 2, Range 8. The purchase triggered another outcry from hunting and motorized recreation interests about land being placed off-limits to "traditional users".
The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) asserted that Quimby’s purchase removed the value from the controversial Katahdin Lake lands the state is trying to buy and that the pending deal should be re-considered by the legislature or even abandoned. The Maine Snowmobilers Association called for at least a discussion of the issues by lawmakers.
Quimby was vacationing in Alaska when word leaked out that the deal with the two prominent landowners/contractors had closed. She had signed a purchase/sales agreement with them six months previously but held off closing to give the state time to complete the bitterly debated Katahdin Lake purchase and avoid agitating critics more. But the Katahdin Lake fundraising campaign was extended in order to raise the necessary $11 million to acquire the parcel from William T. Gardner & Sons Inc.
Last Monday, SAM president George Smith raised questions about Quimby’s purchase at the first meeting of a legislative study group created to look at public land acquisitions for multiple uses. Assuming that Quimby would not allow motorized access to the new parcel, Smith contended that there was now no reason for the state to acquire the Katahdin Lake lands.
Quimby’s purchase borders the southern line of the 6,000 acres in the Katahdin Lake deal and another 8,000 acres (the so-called Wassataquoik Valley land) the state has an option to buy in the future. Four thousand of the 6,000 acres would be added to Baxter Park as wildlife sanctuary, and the other 2,000 acres would be managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC) for hunting and snowmobiling. (Splitting off the 2,000 acres from sanctuary designation was politically necessary to save the project from being squelched by legislative opponents.) Multiple uses would be allowed on the 8,000 acres of optioned valley land.
While all the focus is on Quimby at the moment, another conservationist/businessman may increase his stake in the management of the Katahdin Lake lands. Charles FitzGerald, owner of Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps in the 4,000-acre block, is negotiating with Prentiss & Carlisle Inc. to buy their 17 percent interest in T3R8. Spokesman Ralph Knoll of DOC said the deal will give FitzGerald a stake in the 2,000-acre parcel to be managed by the department and in the 8,000-acre Wassataquoik Valley area the state has under option. Thus, he will have a say in the management of those lands. Like Quimby, FitzGerald is a strong wilderness advocate.
Quimby’s latest deal includes a deeded right-of-way to Gardner and to a couple of small inholders in T3R8 but does not provide for public use. Bob Myers, president of the snowmobile association, raised questions at the Monday meeting about the future of the snowsled trails on the parcel. There is also an extensive network of ATV trails.
It’s too early after the purchase to know whether there are potential options that would satisfy the different interests’ concerns, according to Quimby and DOC’s Knoll. There have been communications among the parties this week but no meetings yet.
Quimby said she is open to talking about compromise but stated that she "can’t be compromised away." She had "a hard time giving up [the east] side of the East Branch of the Penobscot River in T5R8 to placate her opponents, she said, but the fact that the river makes a natural boundary made it easier for her. (She swapped land with Gardner last fall that, besides reinstating multiples uses to the east side of T5R8, which enabling her to stop a proposed bridge over the pristine Wassataquoik Stream.)
Quimby asserted her right to manage her property "for what I believe in and care about. That’s the way it is." She finds it easier, she said, to negotiate with people, such as the snowmobilers’ leaders, who respect private property rights. "Those people are incredibly easy to work with . . . very businesslike, and they respect property rights [unlike the] chaotic, wild, untamed groups."
Myers affirmed that his organization "staunchly defends property rights" and is optimistic about dealing with Quimby on the new parcel, already named "Sandy Stream Sanctuary" for the water course that drains out of Baxter Park. He believes it would be relatively easy to relocate the short section of ITS 83 and another minor snowmobile trail that are on Quimby’s parcel. The Katahdin Loop Trail in T2R8 is below Quimby’s ownership, he added.
There are about a dozen landowners in the East Branch region, Quimby pointed out, and there are just about as many different land management policies. The checkerboard management creates problems for a lot of people, she said. "I think we need to come up with a [regional] management plan that works for everyone." Myers agreed that it’s in everyone’s best interest to "look at the big picture" of management and recreation.
The parcel Quimby purchased is relatively rocky, substantially roaded and interspersed with rolling hills that offer exceptional views of Katahdin to the west and northwest. Because of the scenic values and the multiple logging roads, the land was considered to be of high development potential. The forest is depleted, but in regrowing will provide habitat and browse for moose, lynx and hares.
Sandy Stream runs along the western edge of the parcel from Baxter Park, and Mud Brook runs through the northeast side. There are also another couple of small brooks and ponds and two named peaks. None of the land is on the East Branch.
All of Quimby’s lands are held by Elliottsville Plantation Foundation Inc. In addition to 53,700 East Branch area lands, Quimby owns another 15,919 acres in the north woods.
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