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ALT, Bird Club to host “The Future of Maine’s North Woods”

“The Future of Maine’s North Woods” will be explored in a public forum on Monday, November 7 at 7 p.m. in Heritage Hall at the Franco American Heritage Center at 46 Cedar St., Lewiston.

The agenda for the evening will explore three major public policy issues involving Maine’s North Woods: the current status of public land ownership in Maine; the proposed feasibility study for a North Woods National Park; and the future of the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC).

The event is being co-sponsored by the Androscoggin Land Trust, Stanton Bird Club and Harward Center for Community Partnerships at Bates College.

The presenters at this free, public program will include: Bob Myers, executive director, Maine Snowmobile Association; Lisa Pohlmann, executive director, Natural Resources Council of Maine; Patrick Strauch, executive director, Maine Forest Products Council; and Brian Wentzell, Maine Policy Director, Appalachian Mountain Club.

The program will open with panelists providing a brief overview on each issue from the perspective of their organizations. Following the opening remarks, audience members will be invited to pose questions to the panel.

The panel discussion will be moderated by Lewiston Public Library director Rick Speer, who also serves as the program chair for the Stanton Bird Club. “Between Governor Paul LePage and Roxanne Quimby, Maine’s North Woods has been front-page news this fall, and members of both the Androscoggin Land Trust and the Stanton Bird Club felt the time was right to give residents an opportunity to better understand some of the complexities surrounding the issues that both these individuals are trying to move forward,” Speer said.

Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) currently oversees planning and development activities for more than 10 million acres in the state’s unorganized townships, which comprise the bulk of the area referred to as the “North Woods.” Last month a blue-ribbon task force began exploring alternatives for either reforming LURC or completely changing the current system of oversight. The panel is expected to present its recommendations to the Maine Legislature in time for the 2012 session.

Roxanne Quimby, philanthropist and former owner of Burt’s Bees, has been at work this year trying to advance her proposal to donate 70,000 acres on the east side of Baxter State Park to the National Park Service for use as Maine’s second national park. The National Park Service is currently looking at the possibility of conducting a feasibility study regarding this proposal—a move that has become a hot political issue around the state.

“The challenges and opportunities with Maine’s natural resources are significant, but solutions require listening to all sides and determining the best direction for not only the state as a whole but the communities dependent on them, such as those bordering the North Woods,” states Jonathan LaBonte, director of ALT. “This panel represents those diverse interests and should make for an insightful and engaging conversation with our community.”

The Androscoggin Land Trust is a membership supported land conservation organization dedicated to protecting, through land conservation and stewardship, the important natural areas, traditional landscapes and outdoor experience in the Androscoggin River watershed.  ALT currently conserves over 4,900 acres and more than 10 miles along the Androscoggin River

The Stanton Bird Club , founded in 1919,  and is made up of people from a wide range of ages and backgrounds, all sharing a love of nature in general, and birds in particular.  Stanton owns and manages the 372-acre Thorncrag Nature Sanctuary in the City of Lewiston.

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