January 31, 2023

More On Baxtergate

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Committee members of the Maine Legislative group, Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation met yesterday to begin debate over whether or not a compromise can be worked out regarding the Baxter land swap deal. Yesterday’s session was one of at least three that will be held over the next few days. I’ll try to post the schedule and locations for these meetings as they are open to the public.

Comments that were made yesterday by members of the Legislative Committee as well as representatives from the major players in this negotiation, indicated that a compromise isn’t too likely. To me it still appears that is an all or nothing viewpoint taken by the groups that secretly negotiated the deal.

Attorney General Steven Rowe repeated himself once again saying that the Katahdin Lake parcel was part of Gov. Baxter’s plan for a sanctuary and therefore it should be closed to hunting, trapping and snowmobiling as well as many other uses. Rowe went on to say that he had a map of this “unique” parcel of land and that he “knows what was on his (Baxter’s) mind”. Comments like this are ridiculous in my opinion and only serve to tell the rest of us that their ideas and plans are just that, theirs. I believe this is one of the reasons this entire deal was kept secret and they are playing the, “this is a fragile and complicated deal that can’t be messed with” card, hoping the citizens will fall for it.

But Rep. Roger Sherman (R) from Hodgdon reminded the committee that Baxter made changes and worked out deals and compromises from his original plan. He didn’t think the late Governor would “roll over in his grave” over a compromise. If you will notice, Sherman doesn’t talk about making it exclusionary. He’s looking for reasoning.

Department of Conservation Commissioner Patrick McGowan told committee members that if we tamper with the plan too much, the whole thing will collapse, saying it is just too fragile.

Committee members asked McGowan and Sam Hodder, a project manager representing the Trust for Public Land, if donors would be opposed to opening the land to traditional uses. The responses that I’ve been able to get indicate that neither person was much willing to answer the question.

There have reportedly been 6 major donors to the land deal. According to this artlicle in the Bangor Daily News, this is what Hodder had to say about whether donors would withdraw their support.

Sam Hodder, project manager with the land trust, at first hedged when asked whether donors would withdraw their pledges if the Legislature altered the deal.

After being pressed by legislators, however, Hodder acknowledged that some donors are “particularly intrigued or engaged” by the wildlife sanctuary designation. Other donors have made their pledges contingent on the land being annexed into Baxter.

His answer clearly is an attempt to dodge the question and not anwer it honestly. This is why I believe that this entire land deal has more rooted into it than simply a land swap to enlarge the size of Baxter State Park. It reeks of an agenda to promote groups desires to ban hunting and trapping. I hope also that you noted his response that pledges were “contingent on the land being annexed into Baxter”. There has been some talk of making the Katahdin Lake piece public land – bought and paid for by the state. I don’t believe that is a serious option available. Those advocating traditional use are asking only that that part of the park become open to traditional uses.

According to George Smith, Executive Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, he contacted one donor who he says had no issues with opening the land to traditional uses. Smith says that a second donor voluntarily contacted him and voiced the same.

So who’s telling the truth or not the entire truth?

Baxtergate is already becoming mired in politics and personal agendas.

Previous posts on Baxtergate – here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

The next scheduled workshop is on Wednesday, March 8, 2006 at 10:30 a.m in room 206 Cross State Office Building (1-207-287-1312) The bill ID is LD2015.

Tom Remington