February 3, 2023

More Speak Out About Baxter Land Deal

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More and more people are taking up their soap boxes and speaking out about the Baxter land swap that would add over 6,000 acres of wildlife sanctuary to Baxter State Park. Part of the deal involves Maine residents losing 7,400 acres of public lands. It is an extremely complicated deal that was secretly negotiated over the past three years. Unfortunately, the entire debacle has become a heated and divisive issue.

The largest controversy seems to be about allowing the proposed parcel to be open to hunting, trapping and other traditional recreational activites. The wildlife sanctuary status, if approved, would prohibit all of that.

In previous stories I have written (scroll for titles), Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine executive director George Smith spoke out in an interview on WGAN Radio. The next day an interview with Pat McGowan, director of the Maine Department of Conservation had his few minutes of oration.

The Bangor Daily News carried an opinion piece by Buzz Caverly, former director of the Baxter Park Authority. Carey Kish of the Portland Press Herald has weighed in with opinion and insight and has even opened up a seperate web site focusing strictly on the Baxter deal and is looking for comments and suggestions. Today, Marc Gilbert, a fish writer for MaineToday.com adds his comments.

There certainly is no shortage of commentary and opinions about the entire deal. The latest report coming out of Augusta is that committee members hashing the proposal out trying to come up with a recommendation to take to the full House, are pounding out a compromise. The discussed compromise would involve dividing the 6,000 acres into two parcels. A southern parcel of approximately 4,000 acres would be part of Baxter Park and designated as wildlife sanctuary. The northern parcel, about 2,000 acres would remain multi-use. At issue in this compromise is who would control the 2,000 acre piece.

The debate continues and all sides are getting their punches in and hopefully interested citizens are gathering the information and contacting their representatives about how they feel. Whether this compromise is reached or not among committee members, that will not resolve the proposal’s problems. All parties involved in the complex land purchase/swap, would have to approve any changes to the original deal. Also, contributors of cash to the deal would need to approve changes. If it makes it past that muster, then both houses of Congress would need to make the approval by a 2/3 majority vote.

There is one issue that keeps rearing an ugly and inaccurate head in the press. I repeatedly read and hear the statement that no public monies are involved. The Portland Press Herald has that in an Associated Press release this morning. This is not an entirely true statement. There is Maine land and therefore Maine dollars involved in this transaction. Maine has to sell off 7,400 acres of prime forested land. Our proceeds amount to approximately $5.5 million or about $743.00 per acre.

The one comment I would like to make is in rebuttal to what Marc Gilbert from MaineToday.com wrote this morning in his article. He makes the statement that hunters don’t need the land and that we should stop complaining and give something back because we already have plenty of land to hunt on. It is this shortsightedness that frightens me.

What’s wrong with Baxter expanding anyway? Do we really need every available acre of the North Woods open to hunting? I’ve been a fisherman my whole life and a hunter since I was sixteen!

Gilbert continues his opinion by relating it to restrictions put on fishing and how he has no problem with lawmakers restricting his fishing rights and access issues. He then makes an attempt to shame hunters and those opposed to the deal for how we feel.

I think the Nay Sayers should be ashamed of their shouts and let Baxter Park move on to its full glory. And, while doing so, we will be saying thank you to Governor Percival Baxter for taking the first steps!

To this I say to Marc Gilbert, shame on you for having such a carefree, uncaring attitude toward the heritage and future of what you are using to pad you bank account – albeit probably in tiny amounts but with hunters and fishermen with this kind of attitude and shortsighted view of the future, Maine will soon run out of land to hunt and fish on. Laugh here if you choose. You will eat those words and swallow the laughter.

I continuously hear that Maine has enough land, enough land. Oh, yeah? Over half of the entire state of Maine is either unorganized territory or paper company/logging industry land. We know that the pulp and paper industry is struggling to stay in business. I believe it is only a matter of time before all this land will be sold. We already are witness to large tracts being sold in order to muster up some capital to keep businesses afloat. Paper and lumber manufacturing is now being outsourced to foreign entities. The trend will continue whether we like it or not.

What guarantees to Maine residents have that in 10 years, 15, or 20, we will still have this land to hunt and fish on or ride snowmobiles and ATVs? Then what? Those privately owned parcels that you and I used to hunt on all the time, are now posted. Daily, more and more land is closed. Are we to become just like every other state in the Union and end up with no land to recreate on? I’m not talking just hunting here folks.

Pat McGowan, director of Maine Department of Conservation, in his interview on the radio, emotes his smug little attitude about how hunters have more land to hunt on than any other state. Today that might be true but we can’t lose sight of the future. I have said many times before that Maine chooses to isolate itself from much of the rest of the country, it becomes quite provincial and in so doing often we are unfamiliar with the struggles that other states have and are going through in dealing with recreational access to lands.

We as hunters, fishers, trappers and general recreationalists have to band together and fight for our heritage. This is important to us all. No one else is going to do it for us. One little concession here and a give-back there and slowly but surely it gets chopped down to where there is little left.

The only guarantees that we can have that our grandchildren will have land to recreate on and I’m not talking about making wildlife sanctuaries, is to pressure the state to get off their back sides and start buying up every available parcel of land for public use. Our track record is abysmal. All private land will become unavailable in the future. Whether you want to believe that or not, it is inevitable. Greed will win out and landowners will discover they can make a buck by leasing their land to the highest bidders.

Give the wildlife conservationists their 6,000 acres and shut it out to the majority of the rest of the world but don’t let them take our public lands to do it.

*Previous Posts on Baxtergate*

Two Opposing Sides Speak Out On Baxtergate

Clearing Up Two Misconceptions About Baxtergate

Putting Maine’s Wilderness In Perspective or Fighting Fire With Fire

Baxtergate Debate Continues

Millinocket Continues Its Battle

Adding a Personal Touch to Baxtergate

Many Small Percentages = One Big Percentage

More on Baxtergate

Katahdin Lake to be Added to Baxter State Park

Land Swap Proposal to Increase Baxter State Park

Not Everyone Happy About Baxter Land Swap

Millinocket Wants To Be Heard In Regards To Baxter Land Swap

Monday Morning Podcast (audio podcast about the Baxter Land Swap)

Why The Baxter Land Swap Shouldn’t Happen

Maine’s Governmental Leaders Have Messed Up – The Saga of Baxtergate

More Information on Baxtergate

Baxter and the Anti-Hunting Crowd

Tom Remington