Should we vote Yes, on halting Central Maine Power’s new corridor through Maine’s North Woods? Before I share my opinion, allow me to introduce myself for those who may not know me.
Photo courtesy of Jeremy Grant
My name is Jonathan Hayes. I studied Wildlife Biology at the University of Maine and Conservation Management at Antioch University. I am a Former US Marine. I hunt and fish. I have spent the past twenty five years exploring and writing about Maine’s Northwoods. This past winter I completed a two hundred and eighty-one mile expedition across the Northwoods.
The Northwoods is the largest unprotected forest in the contiguous 48 states.
The fact that we have still it at all is thanks in large part to the large timber companies of the past, Like Great Northern Paper, that used to own large swathes of the Northwoods.
To be clear, this has not preserved the Northwoods as a true forest, but has prevented the development that has occurred everywhere else on the eastern seaboard. The protection that was once afforded by these massive land holding companies has disappeared, however. With the massive decline in consumer demand for paper and wood products, many mills in Maine have shuttered. Many more are holding on by a thread. Land that was once owned by a handful of companies has been fragmented into the ownership of hundreds of private owners and small businesses.
What this means to us is that the Northwoods is being developed, piece by piece. Here a little and there a little. And if we don’t take action soon, there will be no North Woods Maine legacy to hand down to our grandchildren.
Mainers must now look beyond our logging heritage and find a new reason to cherish our forests. Logging will and should continue. But the Northwoods represents the last opportunity for us, as a nation, to create a sanctuary for the unique flora and fauna of the East like those great and cherished wild places in the West.
I understand that timber is still big business in Maine. And I am thankful for it. But even national forests around the nation are harvested. And timber isnt what it used to be. And it continues to decline.
A mature Old Growth Forest could provide new and diverse revenues to Mainers. To hunting guides with new species to hunt. To recreational guides who take adventurers out. To hotels, lodges, Inns, restaurants. The list goes on and on.
Its true that much of the Maine Woods is little more than thick brush- like an awkward adolescent. But small strips like the Allagash Wilderness Waterway remind us of how truly majestic the Maines Northwoods could be, if allowed to mature and to serve as habitat for the charismatic animals that once called Maine home.
I have heard the sad arguments, by fellow Mainers, that the Northwoods doesn't have any beauty worth preserving like the national preserves in the west. Those who say such things do so because they have never looked, through the eyes of faith and hope, to what an old growth primeval east coast forest would be like.
It is for this reason that I ask you to vote YES on the Citizen’s Ballot Initiative, Question #1. Not merely for what Maine’s Northwoods are, but for what they could be, if we would but allow the North Woods to restore her natural glory.