Monday, December 04, 2006

Up Plum Creek without a paddle

Thanks to Maine Environmental News for the tip on this one.

The Oregonian reported on Saturday that the same Plum Creek we're dealing with in the Moosehead region of Maine is looking to make an end run around Oregon's strict land-use laws in order to develop 32,000 acres of coastal forestland.

For decades, Oregon's laws have dictated that working farms and forests are strictly off-limits to housing development. These laws allowed foresters and farmers to work in natural resource industries without pressure to sell out to the latest real estate boom, and as a result, Oregon has gained a reputation as the state that does the best job of protecting its natural landscapes from the forces of suburban sprawl.

Then, a few years ago, Oregon voters passed Measure 37, a proposal from a right-wing property rights advocacy group. Few voters understood what the consequences of Measure 37 would be at the time of the election, but in effect, the initiative allows landowners to either ignore land use laws or demand compensation from the government if they can demonstrate that the regulations have adversely affected the value of their land. Never mind that Oregon's laws have increased state land values tremendously by making the entire place a more attractive place to live, but that's a whole other topic, because this particular blog entry is about Plum Creek.

Plum Creek, a corporation whose timber interests have benefited tremendously from Oregon's timber-protective laws, is now saying that the rules that have kept them from turning their forests into houselots have cost their company $95 million.

Which means, that under the auspices of Measure 37, Plum Creek is holding 32,000 acres of Oregon's coast - which is certainly a state treasure, if not a national one - hostage for $95 million.

The fact that Plum Creek filed their claims with little fanfare at the last minute before a regulatory deadline speaks to their shame in the matter, since they are clearly trying to avoid criticism. The difference between the time zones may only be three hours, but what passes as good timing for Plum Creek in Oregon amounts to horrible timing in Maine. Hearings on Plum Creek's designs on the Moosehead region begin in just a few weeks. The news from Oregon hardly inspires faith in the corporation that would transform Maine's north woods.

  • Measure 37 explained
  • More Measure 37 wackiness, from Sightline
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