September 24, 2020

There Are Legitimate Reasons To Reconsider Baxter Land Swap

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Honestly, it seems that people, hunters, snowmobilers, ATVers, conservationists, anti-hunters and just about everyone else with an opinion, can’t seem to see beyond the end of their noses on this Baxter land swap issue and the land purchases of Roxanne Quimby.

The anti-hunters refuse to see because of their determination to foil all hunting, that there really are some serious issues that can affect us all. These issues are not imagined. If everyone would just get beyond their self-absorbed biases long enough, I think they would begin to see that this issue really is NOT about hunting. It’s NOT about preservation. It’s NOT about traditional recreation. What it IS about is a good or bad use of taxpayer money and the possibility that those who wish to keep Baxter State Park a protected wilderness might be putting that classification in jeopardy.

If the Baxter land swap were to continue as planned, and most everyone involved in Governor Baldacci’s working group on this project seem to indicate there is no way the Maine Legislature is going to modify the agreement from last winter, 4,000 acres will become part of Baxter State Park. This 4,000 acres will include Katahdin Lake and the land surrounding the lake. To the north, 2,000 acres will become public lands managed by the Bureau of Parks and Lands.

*Update* 11:35 am Friday, Sept. 15, 2006 Since I published this story, I was able to locate a website (Maine Environmental Policy Institute)that contained a map. Scroll to bottom of this page for a map.

Roxanne Quimby, a preservationist and an obvious anti-hunter, anti-trapper and anti-motorized recreational vehicle person, has been buying up vast amounts of land in northern Maine. Quimby, the former owner of Burt’s Bees, has made no bones about the fact that any land she buys she closes it to hunting, trapping, snowmobiling and ATV riding.

Quimby is in the process of buying between 23,000 and 25,000 acres of land to the east of Baxter. This is a parcel that the state of Maine tried, although we’re not sure how hard they tried, to buy last year. It is my understanding the state offered the owner, a timber company H.C. Haynes/Crawford, the appraised value and the offer was rejected. Quimby jumped in with an offer of somewhere around $10 million dollars, significantly above the market value.

What this purchase does is essentially landlock the 2,000 acres that will become public land from access. Hunters and the like are now asking what good is this 2,000 acres of public land if we can’t get to it? Preservationists are ranting their same rhetoric saying that hunters have too much land to hunt on now. Because of their dislike of hunting, they may be selling their soles to the devil to win their battle.

In theory, should the Baxter land swap come to fruition and Quimby’s purchase of the 23,000-plus acres go through, Maine taxpayers are left with 2,000 acres in which they need to find a way to create access.

For those who don’t know, it is Maine law that says that no land can be landlocked without access being provided somehow. Providing that the Maine Legislature is looking out for the best interest of its people, they would go to work to find the best way to gain access to this land. This process could become extremely time consuming and complicated as well as expensive.

Some on the task force that are working on this issue are saying that we need to negotiate with Roxanne Quimby. Should we? Rep. Patrick Flood, R-Winthrop in referencing Roxanne Quimby, had this to say at Monday’s meeting. Flood sits on the Governor’s task force for the Baxter land swap.

“I would hope we could work with the landowner and find some solutions,” said Rep. Patrick Flood, R-Winthrop.

This is wishful thinking and I would suppose that miracles do happen but Quimby’s track record on these kinds of things isn’t strong when it comes to sharing her land.

Bart DeWolf, who works for Quimby in her land preservation foundation called Elliotsville Plantation, yesterday had remarks that were not encouraging to those hoping she would leave her land open to hunting, trapping, snowmobiling and ATV riding.

But DeWolf predicted that, like other land purchased by the Burt’s Bees founder, the property likely will be off-limits to hunters, trappers, snowmobiles and ATVs.

But DeWolf went on making comments that are misleading.

DeWolf took issue with any suggestion that Quimby is “closing off” the land to others. In fact, her actions may have maintained public access to heavily cut timberland that otherwise might have been subdivided, developed and closed to all users, he said.

“At least now with our ownership we do not preclude fishing, for example,” DeWolf said. “We encourage hiking, canoeing, camping … and all of those other uses on the property.”

It is my understanding that there are cases in which Quimby has closed her land to everyone but the issue here isn’t what Roxanne Quimby can and cannot do with her land. We all know she has the right, within the law, to do with it as she pleases. The real issue is whether Maine taxpayers want to be beholding to someone like Quimby with the track record she has for access to land owned by the public?

This is a very serious issue that needs closer scrutiny on the part of the committee, the Legislature and the Governor regardless of how difficult it was to reach an agreement last winter.

Let’s take a minute and look at another issue that I doubt few have considered. Once again supposing all plans on the table come about. Maine now owns 2,000 acres that needs and is required by law, access. Where is this access going to come from?

Many keep talking as though if we schmoozed with Quimby, she would grant us access. Whether she would or wouldn’t, with her past record of forcing the termination of easements and leases on other property she has bought, I don’t think this is a good idea.

What few if any are looking at is the obvious means of access to this land. I’m sure there are other possibilities but what is the best way to gain this access? There is a distinct possibility that if this entire debacle ended up in the courts, and it may very well before it’s done, access may be granted via Baxter State Park. If that were to happen, well, I’ll let you think of the possibilities.

Yesterday, George Smith, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and Bob Myers, executive director of the Maine Snowmobile Association, said that with this change of Quimby’s land purchase, they want to see all 6,000 acres become part of Baxter State Park. They say the money realized from the sale of 7,000 acres of public land as part of the negotiated deal, should be recovered and used to buy other public land near the Millinocket area.

If there is some kind of ploy behind this new proposal, we have yet to see but I think it is playing right into the hands of the preservationists who are looking to expand Baxter State Park and continue the growth toward a much larger wildlife preservation that would ultimately kill any and all economic hopes for the residents in the Katahdin region and render the massive amounts of acreage unusable by the majority of Maine’s citizens.

My point in all of this is that no matter which side of this issue you sit on or maybe you don’t even have a side, consider seriously all aspects in the realm of possibilities. I would ask everyone to move beyond their hatred, anger and prejudices and ponder whether this acquisition of the 6,000 acres as it is proposed, is worth the possible nightmare it can cause. Seriously consider if you will, the distinct possibility that some of Baxter State Park will have to be chopped up in order to grant access to this 2,000 acres. This may have to be done in the form of a road leading to the 2,000 acres.

Roxanne Quimby is who she is and Mainers have to learn to live with it. As much as I personally believe her actions to close her land is un-Maine, it is her right. We don’t know her real motives behind her philanthropic endeavors but for me, I think it is a safe bet that attempting negotiations that would be in the best interest of Maine, would be a futile one at best.

Consider the possibilities.

This link takes you to my last article on this subject called, “Something Smells Really Bad Around Baxter Park And Hunters Will Lose – Again“. Following that story at the end are links to all previous posts about the Baxter land swap issue.
Map showing land holding of Roxanne Quimby

Tom Remington

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