Downeast Coastal Press
March 20, 2007
Pressure Groups Influencing State Planning
"Anti–Sprawl" and the Assault on the Unorganized Territories: One Neck for One Leash
by Erich Veyhl
A plethora of “news” articles      suddenly appeared last week decrying “wilderness sprawl.” The articles all purported to be about an official report on development trends, but immediately plunged into – and emphasized – canned quotes from the environmental activist Natural Resources Council of Maine's [NRCM] paid lobbyist Cathy Johnson expressing grave “concern.”
The whole frenzy – not the last we will see of this – was “press release journalism” on behalf of NRCM's “anti–sprawl” agenda denouncing human activity in rural areas. It turns out that the “report” – misportrayed as breaking news – is an almost year–old politically biased “study” entitled “Patterns of Change: Three Decades of Change in LURC's Jurisdiction – A Report to the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission” [LURC] (PDF 5MB). It was released in May, 2006, by Planning Decisions, Inc., a Portland–based politically motivated organization that hires itself out to perform statist economic “analysis,” implement political “focus group” and promotion strategies and provide advice on government planning.
Too Much Freedom?
Why a sudden splurge of “news” articles on a year–old political report now? The PR on behalf of NRCM is intended to influence LURC's upcoming changes to its comprehensive plan now being rewritten, as well as several bills before the Legislature seeking to impose higher taxes and more controls over people in the vast Unorganized Territory [UT] who apparently enjoy, according to NRCM, too much freedom from “regular review.” NRCM expects its undue influence over government and the media to pay off. It has plenty of cohorts on the inside.
Environmentalists want consolidation of control – one neck for one leash – eventually in the form of complete centralized Greenline social controls over an entire population as part of their anti–private property rights, “anti–sprawl” agenda.
“Anti–sprawl” of course means “pro–congestion.” The viros want most people (except for themselves) out of the rural areas and herded into crowded cities, where they can be better controlled.
This, they insist, ensures more “efficient” use of “infrastructure.” One neck for one leash.
But the wave of “news” articles' sensationalist reporting that the UT is “growing at a faster pace than in Maine overall” is intended to convey the impression that there is some major problem in the UT that urgently needs to be addressed with more statism than even the already stringent and ever–expanding LURC zoning controls.
To put it mildly, the claims about “development” in the UT exceeding growth elsewhere are an abuse of out–of–context statistics to systematically hype a political agenda. The number of people (less than 13,000) scattered in the 10.5 million–acre, mostly privately owned UT is so small for such a huge area (about half of Maine) that such a statistical comparison with “growth” in the rest of Maine is meaningless.
Nor do the envirnmental activists reveal any understanding of or sympathy for the property owners' interests as expressed in land “ownership changes” or the LURC building permits issued for individual purposes. Such changes are only seen as dreaded “development” and proof of the virochondriacs' own “projections” of doom. It is enough, for viros, to believe that living on one's own property in a remote rural or previously unsettled area is an evil transgression against a mystical “intrinsic value” of nature, especially “Wilderness,” which supersedes all human interests.
Trescott Singled Out
As an example of the hyped abuse of statistics, the Planning Decisions report singles out Trescott – a quiet unorganized township in eastern Washington County with a year–round population of only about 300 residents (which is not mentioned) in 25 square miles (also not mentioned). Trescott, the report claims, is “fast growing.” Why?
Because 173 LURC permits (both seasonal and year–round) issued in Trescott in 34 years were 20 percent of the permits issued by LURC Down East, which were 23 percent of all permits for those townships with 100 or more permits issued.
Unwinding their run–on fraction of a fraction of a fraction parlayed into a large number, that turns out, using their own data, to be an average of five permits per year in Trescott, which amounted to 5.1 percent of permits issued by LURC Down East, and 2 percent of all LURC permits in the 34 year period. They don't say if all the permitted activities were actually built – or how many permits were those issued with no time limits and then summarily canceled a few years ago without telling the property owners. But new “people” are there, and they are on land the viros covet, so there must be “fast growth” that is “threatening” the “environment.” Trescott de–organized in 1945 because of a declining population from which it has still not recovered. But to those opposed to “sprawl” there is a big problem that requires urgent state action for more land use controls and taxes. LURC must act, and NRCM wants to create pressure with the phony impression of a stampede of public demand to make it happen – in response to an equally phony impression of a stampede intruding on “Wilderness.” But environmentalists have long wanted higher taxes and more stringent land use prohibitions on private property for 20 years as part of their agenda to take over the land, which has nothing to do with any new “study.”
Their agenda was first publicly promoted in 1988 with the big push for the National Park Service to take over most of Washington County as one of five planned new national parks in Maine intended to eliminate private ownership.
This included all of Trescott, part of which was also targeted as a “nationally significant” (meaning local people don't matter) National Natural Landmark extending 20 miles along the coastline of Cutler, Trescott and Lubec. The designation was being imposed by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the State Planning Office illegally and secretly, collaborating with the National Park Service behind the backs of the property owners. They were caught in the act and after a four–year intense battle that was increasingly embarrassing to the viros the more that was exposed, the scheme was shut down in Washington by then Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D–Maine).
NRCM was the lead spokesman for the NPS promotion for the five high priority new national parks intended to engulf much of rural Maine with strict state/federal Greenline controls over any remaining private land connecting the new national parks created with eminent domain taking of the land. What a coincidence that new viro “studies” now “scientifically” claim to show an out–of–control “overdevelopment” problem. They want the land and are willing to spend decades to get it by any means possible.
The 2006 Planning Decisions report also suggests that multiple ownership “fragmentation” could “threaten the environment” (where have you heard that before?). It seems that if they could kill the economy and drive people out through taxes and controls there would be fewer left to fight a complete government takeover. One neck for one leash is so much easier than trying to overrun a larger number of people trying to defend themselves – the last thing the viros want is more people owning land they covet. “Sprawl” must be stopped at all costs until the viros get complete control.
The report also “analyzes” the declining natural resources industry in Maine – with no mention of the role of special–interest political and regulatory harassment of the timber companies, and no mention of Maine's punitive third–world taxes and controls driving almost any kind of business and investment out of the state.
So for example, there is no mention of such issues as the millions of dollars lost by Georgia Pacific [GP] tied up in a long battle over a shakedown racket perpetrated by the likes of NRCM and Maine Audubon lawyers who demanded land and “conservation easements” in exchange for Federal (FERC) “permission” for GP to continue operating its century–old private hydro energy production. (GP is now gone.)
The report does, however, assure us that “business” will somehow eagerly pay more than normal market value for Maine forest products produced under restrictive “green certification.” It also unquestionably accepts the gradual slow death of most of the timber industry as inevitable – due supposedly to “international” factors – and urges government planned and controlled tourism instead of a free economy. Might a state takeover of “tourism” have something to do with future government takeovers for “parks” and “habitat” for the sake of enforced wilderness and “eco–tourists”?
Such is the nature of the “anti–sprawl” campaign for Maine: Complete social control, land takings, and a third–world controlled economy, all enforced by viro bureaucracy. One neck for one leash.
Copyright © 2007 Erich Veyhl, All rights reserved