January 28, 2023

More Reasons To Debate Baxter Land Swap

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Before you read this article, you need to read this story I did earlier today about legitimate reasons to reconsider the Baxter land swap. I’ve discovered some more interesting events that raise big red flags as well. If I keep digging deep enough, I’m sure I am going to find things that are very disturbing.

After I posted my article this morning, I spent several hours doing some more research on Roxanne Quimby. Don’t get me wrong. I am not out to hang Ms. Quimby. As long as she is within the law, as strongly as I disagree with her choices, they are hers and should be respected. In particular, I wanted to find a map that clearly showed Quimby’s land holdings, along with Baxter State Park and the proposed addition of lands from the land swap that is in the works.

I was able to find the website of the Maine Environmental Policy Institute. There I found a news story done by Phyllis Austin and a map. The map I posted after the fact with my story this morning.

In this news article I came across, there are some interesting bits of information that don’t seem to be finding their way into the mainstream media or being shared by other groups such as the Governor and his task force, the Department of Conservation, the Baxter Park Authority, et al. Would it be more comforting to know that the reason for this is that they don’t know?

During the discovery period when Maine residents where finding out the state had been secretly negotiating a land swap, I had heard some rumors that Roxanne Quimby was in the process of buying another large parcel of land next to Baxter State Park. According to this article, that was in fact true.

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.

I find it hard to fathom that Ms. Quimby being the land grabber that she is, would sit back quietly to allow time for the state to negotiate the land swap for land that she had indicated she wanted initially. This is another reason I am led to believe that there were also secret negotiations going on between Quimby, Baxter authorities, Department of Conservation and who all else. Of course I have no proof of this and it is merely speculation on my part but this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me nor does it completely add up. It is easy for all parties to declare that any meetings involved the parcel of land east of the East Branch of the Penobscot that Quimby swapped with Gardner as part of the total Baxter land swap deal.

The state of Maine has an option to purchase 8,000 acres for public lands in the middle of all this, known as the Wassataquoik Valley land. This piece would be mostly sandwiched between Quimby’s holdings. For those thinking this would provide access to the 2,000 acre parcel to be declared multiple use, it would still mean crossing the nearly segregated 4,000 acres declared wilderness.

In this article it states another interesting development that nobody is talking about either.

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 4,000 acre and the 2,000 acre parcels and thus a say in the management of the lands. Like Quimby, FitzGerald is a strong wilderness advocate.

Was anybody aware that if not FitzGerald, then Prentiss and Carlisle would have a say in how this land would be managed? I certainly wasn’t privvy to that information. Are there others who will have a say in how the state’s public lands will be managed? Is this how we want our lands managed?

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.

Let’s get this straight. Gardner, as refered to above, is the present owner of the Katahdin Lake parcel that is included in the land swap. The Katahdin Lake parcel currently has a deeded right-of-way across the newly acquired Quimby parcel.

This statement doesn’t make clear whether the so-called “couple of small inholders” in T3R8 are located within the Gardner parcel or her new parcel. If they are inside the Gardner parcel, one can only surmise that they too would have some say in how the land gets managed. If they are inside the Quimby piece, are they going to get booted?

In a hasty and secretively negotiated land swap, these and who knows how many other hidden issues are reasons why this deal needs to be re-examined. I’ve said it before. If our Legislature pushes this deal through because it was a difficult effort the first time, it would be irresponsible. Maine residents have been left in the dark about this deal either intentionally or not. What information is finding its way into public forums seems to be just what the proponents of the land swap want.

I’ll keep digging.

Tom Remington