HOW WOULD A REFUGE AFFECT FRANKLIN COUNTY’S TIMBER HARVESTS?
Our proposal involves working with supporting landowners willing to sell a total of about 25,000 acres – about 2% of Franklin County’s 1,125,713 acres of total land area. Much of the land proposed for the refuge is located at high elevations featuring steep slopes and hence is marginal or inoperable for timber harvesting. A new High Peaks wildlife refuge would have an active forest management plan featuring commercial-scale harvest operations, and harvest contracts would be made available locally on a competitive bid basis. Thus, we believe that transferring this relatively small amount of land would not harm the local forest products industry, nor unduly diminish overall harvesting capacity.
COULD REAL ESTATE DEVELOPERS BENEFIT FROM A NEW REFUGE?
YES. A new high peaks refuge would obviously remove some backcountry land from potential development. However, there would still be abundant nearby private land that could be developed. In the unorganized territory and plantations, the Land Use Planning Commission’s general policy has been to encourage new development near existing development and near public roads, rather than to encourage it in the backcountry. This helps limit the cost of public services that accompany any new development and also helps preserve the nearby open space for traditional uses like logging, outdoor recreation, and wildlife.
Numerous national economic development studies demonstrate that land values increase with proximity to well-managed conservation and open space land, especially lands featuring low-density public recreation access and trails.
WOULD RETAILERS AND OTHER BUSINESSES BENEFIT FROM A NEW REFUGE?
YES. A new High Peaks wildlife refuge would be well positioned within a growing tourism and seasonal home economic region that includes the Rangeley Lakes and Carrabassett Valley destination resort areas. Wildlife observation is a leading outdoor recreation activity in America, so a well-planned refuge could serve a valuable complementary role in Franklin County’s dynamic recreation industry. Well-planned trails and interpretation facilities in the refuge could help support future regional marketing efforts.