Questions answered about Roxanne Quimby and me

I’ve been questioned and criticized recently for collaborating with Lucas St.Clair to create a management and use plan for the lands purchased by his mother Roxanne Quimby. Here’s why my participation has been and is important.

When Roxanne reached out to the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, Maine Snowmobile Association, and others who had been very critical of her plan to create a national park on her lands between Baxter State Park and the East Branch of the Penobscot River, I was very skeptical. I had been her harshest critic.

But SAM’s Board of Directors saw some merit in talking with her, and directed me to begin participating in a series of meetings hosted by Jim Page (now the Chancellor of the University of Maine System) at his Sewall Company office in Old Town. I was surprised to find that I liked Roxanne, and was very pleased when she agreed to several of our requests, from maintaining the snowmobile trail through her property to allowing hunting for a year on any new land she purchased, until a management plan was in place. She even sold some of her land near the town of Millinocket to the state at the request of local folks there.

When I left SAM at the end of 2010 to write full time, and sought sponsors for my new website, Roxanne was one of the first to participate. I recruited a diverse group of sponsors, hoping to avoid criticism that I was favoring – in my writing – one particular interest. My website sponsors include Poland Spring, First Wind, Plum Creek, Shipyard Beer, businesses like Chilton Furniture and Robbins Lumber Company, and all of the state’s major environmental groups. I have focused much of my writing on outdoor news – because we sportsmen get very little of that anyplace else.

When Lucas St.Clair took over his mother’s project, I was delighted to find out that he’d been a recreational fishing guide on the west coast and is an avid hunter. Lucas retained an impressive group of national consultants in Washington D.C. and Montana to work on the project. These are guys who have worked for many of the nation’s top groups representing sportsmen and gun owners, and they are enthusiastic hunters and anglers.

I have really enjoyed collaborating with Lucas and his team. They even spent an evening in my Mount Vernon dining room, maps spread out on the table, seeking my input on the appropriate uses and management plans for each of the parcels owned by Roxanne’s Elliotsville Plantation. Many of my suggestions have been incorporated into the plan – including a major focus on the recreational and fishing potential of the East Branch of the Penobscot River. I believe we could create a world-class fishery there.

So here’s the bottom line. I’m not wildly enthusiastic about a national park in the north woods, but I do understand the benefits – especially the economic benefits – for an area that desperately needs an economic boost. But my principle reason for staying at the table is to try to get as much opportunity on these lands for sportsmen and other Mainers as possible. And I’ve had a lot of success.

For example, Lucas will open 40,000 acres for hunting this fall. This has been one of my top goals. And he just completed a tree harvest aimed at improving grouse habitat. Perhaps you are one of those who thought hunting and tree harvesting would never happen on Roxanne’s lands.

If you are still skeptical, consider this. Lucas and EPI recently stepped up to take a position against the proposed ban on bear hunting with bait and dogs and bear trapping, launched by the Humane Society of the United States. I like to think I had something to do with this.

It may be easy to stand on the sidelines and shout “no” at Roxanne and Lucas and criticize those of us who are collaborating with them. But that gets you nothing. And ultimately, it could cost you everything, including access to and the use of all of Roxanne’s lands.

I can only ask that you keep on open mind, listen and learn, share your own ideas with us, and ultimately, support the plan that emerges at the end of this process. It will be a good one, for all of us.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. George also hosts, with Harry Vanderweide, a TV talk show called Wildfire, now in its 13th year and focused on hunting, fishing, environmental, and conservation issues. The show is owned and produced by Maine Audubon and seen on its website as well as on the Time Warner cable TV station throughout the state.