There has been lots of talk lately about the Maine North Woods, since the paper mills are failing.

When campaigning for president, Mitt Romney suggested that privately owned government-backed stocks should be issued to save General Motors.

I believe the people of Maine should consider exploring such an idea to preserve the North Woods. The state could set up a board of directors with some bylaws for them to operate under and provide a private stock offering to Maine residents to purchase tracts of land in jeopardy.

Traditional uses would be continued but paid for with user fees. We could lease land, charging fees for resorts, guiding, camping, logging, wind farms, mining, hunting, fishing, snowmobiles, ATVs, etc. All these activities would be controlled by the board of directors, working under state laws for the benefit of all Maine residents, while maintaining a working forest and providing a small dividend for the shareholders.

If one was to assume an offering of $1,000 per share with a goal of a state-guaranteed 5 percent tax-free return, Maine could leverage that $1,000 per share, which in a worst-case scenario, could cost the taxpayer 5 percent any year it didn’t turn a profit.

This should never happen, though, as no property tax would be charged until the shareholders were paid their dividend.

That would give an extreme advantage to this new private land trust that industry has never enjoyed. It also would encourage our government to be responsible and manage these lands to be profitable and pay taxes.

Who better than the residents of Maine to manage our own forest lands? Do we want outside sources controlling Maine’s future? Do we really want to invite Washington, D.C., to manage how we should work and live in Maine?

John Hopkins


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