March 18, 2012

Our View: Court's Plum Creek opinion a vindication for LURC

The board approved a plan that balances economic development with conservation.

Plum Creek's plan for 975 house lots and two resorts near Moosehead Lake would be the biggest development the North Woods has ever seen.

It also would be the biggest land conservation effort in the state's history, resulting in the preservation of 400,000 acres of forest, an area twice the size of Baxter State Park.

This is the balance that was struck by the landowner, some environmental groups and brokered by the Land Use Regulation Commission, which struggled to reach the right balance in a massive rezoning. The agency received criticism from many parties and nonparties to the case, but in the end, the process it used to reach a decision was upheld by the state Supreme Judicial Court.

The decision is an affirmation of a balanced approach to environmental policy in which economic development and conservation can coexist.

It's also vindication for LURC, which is in danger of being torn apart by the Legislature.

LURC worked with all parties and approved a plan far different than what had originally been proposed. The result is a development plan that over the decades will produce more value and less environmental damage than an unplanned development of the same size. It may be an agency that should be modernized, but should not be gutted.


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