Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram
Wilderness areas grow at faster pace
By ALAN CROWELL, Blethen Maine News Service Portland Press Herald Monday, March 12, 2007

The unorganized territories make up about half of Maine, or roughly 10.5 million acres.

In 2005, the year-round population of the unorganized territories was estimated at 12,461. On peak weekends during the summer, however, population swells to between 35,000 and 45,000 people.

Between 1971 and 2000, the number of homes or camps in the unorganized territories doubled to 18,906.

AUGUSTA - As Maine goes, so go the unorganized territories, only more so, according to a report on development trends.
Population in the unorganized territories, which make up about half of Maine, is growing at a faster pace than in Maine overall, with more than half of new dwellings since 1971 being built away from service centers,Ýaccording to analysis by the Land Use Regulation Commission and a study of trends in the territories.
"I think what we are seeing is wilderness sprawl," said Cathy Johnson, of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, pointing to analysis by the commission and a report titled "Patterns of Change," prepared by Planning Decisions Inc., of South Portland, that studied trends in the unorganized territories between 1971 and 2005.
That report shows that growth is not happening only in areas next to organized towns, but deep in the North Woods. Also of concern, Johnson said, is the fact that the report finds that 72 percent of new homes built between 1971 and 2005 were constructed on lots created without any formal review process.
"It means that to the extent that (the Land Use Regulation Commission's) responsibility is to guide development to appropriate areas, they were only able to do that on 28 percent of the new houses between 1971 and 2005," said Johnson.
The commission is studying trends in the unorganized territories as it prepares its revised comprehensive land use plan.
The comprehensive plan establishes policies for the commission and is the basis for the commission's regulations. It is updated every 10 years.
The "Patterns of Change" study found that the year-round population in the unorganized territories grew about 5 percent between 1990 and 2000, while the number of housing units grew 16 percent.
The pattern of land ownership also is changing, with the number of landowners increasing 31 percent between 1985 and 2005, according to the study. In the Moosehead Lake region, the number of landowners nearly doubled during that time.
Changing land use and ownership patterns altered most rapidly in areas near major roads and water bodies.
Much of the development pressure was focused in relatively few places that tend to be close to regional service centers. About 40 percent of new homes or camps built in the 1990s were constructed in the Moosehead LakeÝand western mountains regions.
Most of the growth in the western mountains area was near Rangeley. Most of the growth in the Moosehead region was near Route 201 or the lakeshore.
Population in the western mountains region grew 17 percent between 1990 and 2000 -- roughly 63 percent of the population growth in the unorganized territories.
Until the recent surge, population growth in the territories had stayed relatively constant in the past three decades, growing about 5 percent per decade in the 1970s, '80s and '90s.
During that same period, the rate of Maine's population growth has declined from about 13 percent in the 1970s to about 4 percent in the 1990s.
Caroline Eliot, a land-use planner with the commission, said an analysis of the western mountains region also found that while population in the unorganized territories grew substantially between 1990 and 2000, population in bordering towns in the area actually declined about 2 percent.
The movement of population from areas with services such as police, firefighters and hospitals to areas that have no services is not unique to the unorganized territories, she said, but it can be problematic.
"You get to the point where you have to build redundant infrastructure and you are extending the service region," she said. "That is not a particularly efficient model for the delivery of services."
She said the commission's analysis found that 45 percent of new dwellings built between 1971 and 2005 are in only 21 townships. Those townships are characterized as being near both a service center and high-value natural resources.
The rest of the new homes built in that time are dispersed throughout the territories.
In northern Somerset County, a subdivision of lots greater than 40 acres was created in an area with no roads and no power in what was once commercial timberland, Eliot said.
More than 120 building permits have been issued for that subdivision, creating a concentration of housing far from any service-center town.
"It shows that there is a demand for wooded lots in the middle of nowhere," she said.
As the commission develops its 2007 comprehensive land use plan, Eliot said, it is looking closely at how services are provided as well as other issues.
She said public workshops could be held on the draft of the updated plan this summer.

Reader comments

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Erich Veyhl of trescott, ME
Mar 13, 2007 1:06 PM
It seems that the editor is engaging in political censorship. This comment of mine has been twice rejected by PPH even though it violates none of the stated guidelines and was eventually accepted by the Morning Sentinel:

The news article is based on a promotion by the Natural Resources Council pushing a "report" released by another viro pressure group almost a year ago. The immediate political purpose is to influence an upcoming LURC revision of its Comprehensive Plan and bills before the legislature for more taxes and controls in the UT. The Natural Resources Council's "anti-sprawl" campaign is against private property and development in rural Maine because the group wants the government to "preserve" other people's property there. This is the same pressure group that collaborated in the late 1980's with Washington DC lobbyists to try to get the National Park Service to take over the private property in rural Maine using eminent domain and Greenline land use prohibitions.

People go to rural areas for their personal freedom and privacy and to escape bureaucratic regimentation and social controls increasingly promoted by the progressive viro left. The Natural Resources Council can't stand the thought that someone might be escaping. The meaning of its "anti-sprawl" campaign is "pro-congestion"; it wants to herd us into urban areas with one neck for one leash. Only the politically correct viros like Natural Resources Council lobbyists are to be permitted to have their own dachas in the country and remote areas, which they of course already have and want to keep "others" out.

Doug Maine of Portland, ME
Mar 12, 2007 9:26 PM

Here we go again. Cathy Johnson and the socialist granola bar organization NRCM along with a sympathetic media raising the concern that Maine's 10.5 million acres of unorganized territories are getting croweded! Give us a break Ms. Cathy and concerned liberal media will you.

You've totally killed development in Maine anyway. I have a feeling that if you push for additional restrictions a very angry public will rise up and strike back. I hope so anyway.

Oh, by the way NRCM and Ms. Cathy - many people thank you for fighting for a decade against widening of the Maine Turnpike. Especially, those poeple who lost loved ones in traffic accidents because of the road that was too narrow and unsafe you fought to keep from being widened.

What a legacy to proud of.

CommonCents of Brunswick, ME
Mar 12, 2007 3:30 PM
The Maine that we all love to identify with, whether quaint villages or seaside estates around S.W. Harbour were all built without the restrictions of regulations promoted by the NRCM.

That's the Maine I love; but how do we get it back without banning the NRCM and its ilk?

Jo of Augusta, ME
Mar 12, 2007 12:58 PM
Bill Randall, we need more forward-thinking people like you, people who appreciate the kind of Maine we inherited and care about what we leave to our children. At least it's good to know that Rick is supportive of Roxanne Quimby's rights and fully expect that the next time the paper runs a story about her he'll be chiming in with big cheers!

John Bliss of Bath, ME
Mar 12, 2007 12:47 PM
Being a libertarian by inclination, I would like to point out that you gotta make an effort to get anything. You gotta WORK FOR IT. Freedom has a price like everything else. "It" comes in two flavors.

Flavor one is self-reliance. Living in the "wilderness" means you gotta get your heat and electricity from the sun. Forget your internal combustion engine and all their stupid "regulations". You gotta compost your own waste, not flush it into someone else's storm drain. It's a lot cheaper but that doesn't mean you don't gotta WORK FOR IT. You can't just grab a free lunch someone else already paid for!

Flavor two is being a "human" type animal. You're not so SPECIAL you know. You gotta wait in line in the food chain just like everyone else. You gotta leave a light footprint just like other critters do. Live, eat, and shelter yourself along with God's other critters for less money-- instead of massively destroying other critters' "trading areas" and lifestyles by butting in and taking over their places in line-- eliminating massive numbers of 'em and in the process running up a bill you know you'll never pay!

Freedom is good but you gotta WORK FOR IT. Just like everyone else.

Rick of Brownville Jct., ME
Mar 12, 2007 11:46 AM
If 100,000 people want to build in the wilderness on property they own What bussness is it of anyone else. put your noses in your own arsh get it out of mine i am a believer in personal property rights not so called state ownership or control of every thing. come on my property without a invite and I SHOOT TREASPASSERS. I might even shoot suvivors.

Bill Randall of Winthrop, ME
Mar 12, 2007 11:17 AM
The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) is one of our premier organizations in Maine and thank god they work for the benefit of all people in many, many different ways. I encourage all of the readers to look at their website to see their mission. They are scientific environmentalists who enlighten and inform our citizens about the poisons that exist in many products that are sold to us by those seeking the corporate dollar. NRCM is not a self-serving organization. They are altruistic in all ways and Kathy Johnson is one of their spokespersons - and a darn good one, I might add.

Rick of Brownville Jct., ME
Mar 12, 2007 10:47 AM
You are right Brian, Some people are never satisfied if they can't stick their noses in someoneelses bussiness or as i say up someonelses arsh. If they kept it where it belonged the world would be a better place to live in and they could keep their filthy hands out of my pockets.. any thing i have can be had by anyone all i ask is they get it the same way __WORK FOR IT.

Brian of West Gardiner, ME
Mar 12, 2007 9:58 AM
See...Jo...this is exactly what I am talking about!

What gives you the right to tell me what I can do on my land?

I dont tell you when to sweep your apartment.

Jo of Augusta, ME
Mar 12, 2007 8:50 AM
Thank you, Ms. Johnson, for working so hard to protect the things about Maine that Brian and others take for granted. Without the NRCM, Maine would have been swallowed up by sprawl long ago. Keep going, NRCM!

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