October 1, 2008

State Officials Talk With Foes of Plum Creek Plan

Opponents of Plum Creek Timber Co.'s extensive development plans for the Moosehead Lake region got their audience with state officials Tuesday, one day after four Earth First! protesters ended up in jail.

The protesters, who locked themselves together in the Land Use Regulation Commission's headquarters, said they committed an act of civil disobedience because they felt their voices weren't being heard. All four were charged with criminal trespass and disorderly conduct, made bail and were released Monday night.

They were protesting the LURC staff's recommendation in favor of Plum Creek's plans to develop nearly 1,000 house lots and two major resorts in the Moosehead Lake area.

Two environmentalists - who were not part of the group of four - met Tuesday with LURC Director Catherine Carroll and state Conservation Commissioner Patrick McGowan to talk about Plum Creek's plans. The state officials had offered to meet with protesters at the start of Monday's incident, but the protest continued for hours until police had a locksmith cut the locks that held the four women together.

Tuesday's meeting lasted 45 minutes to an hour.

"It was very civil. We brought forth our concerns that money is speaking louder than the voices of Maine citizens," said Emily Posner of the Native Forest Network, who was outside LURC's offices with other protesters Monday but didn't enter the building. "Did they listen to us, the human beings? Yes, of course. But when you look at the power, clearly the residents of Maine are being disempowered in this situation."

Posner said the state officials, while attentive, also noted that the public record regarding Plum Creek is essentially closed.

Ethan Miller of the Native Forest Network also attended, as did Jeanne Curran, public information representative for the Department of Conservation.

"Both sides were very articulate, very congenial," Curran said. "There was a discussion about the process, the application. (Miller and Posner) said it was not a democratic process. The commissioner pointed out that (LURC) is a citizen board, confirmed by the Legislature, and it was a democratic process. Clearly there was disagreement, but people were cordial to each other."

That's a marked contrast to Monday, when Emily Paine, 22, of Portland; Kayla Hershey-Wilson, 26, of Thorndike; Megan Gilmartin, 24, of Searsmont; and Megan Wilson locked themselves together in the offices of LURC, within the state office complex located on the former grounds of the Augusta Mental Health Institute.

Gilmartin said she felt the group's message had finally been heard at least to some extent as a result of the protest, though she still didn't feel their concerns about LURC's Plum Creek process have been answered adequately. She plans to attend a LURC hearing today in Bangor, at which the Plum Creek plan could be finalized.

"We will continue to remind them the people of Maine need to have their voices heard," Gilmartin said.

Thousands of people have testified in person or in writing regarding the controversial Plum Creek proposal.

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