To be fair, much of the area where the proposed Central Maine Power transmission line would go through is not “pristine wilderness,” as some are saying. It is a heavily logged working forest, dotted with clear-cuts and monoculture tree farms, with a notable lack of mature trees. There are myriad roads of all sizes and types, as well as numerous gravel pits and log yards.

The area is, however, home to fish and wildlife, some of which are already stressed. This includes pond-dwelling wild native brook trout, which have been greatly reduced due to nonnative fish introductions, moose whose numbers have declined due to tick infestations, and deer compromised by a loss of wintering habitat. Canadian lynx, a threatened species, can be also be found, as well as spruce grouse, which are endangered in Vermont and a species of special concern in New Hampshire.

The proposed power line would cut through the heart of Maine’s newest public land, Cold Stream Forest, one of the last intact wild native brook trout watersheds in the region. It would cross the fabled Appalachian Trail and encroach on, and pass under, the remote and rugged Kennebec Gorge, a unique remote recreational fishery of note and an unmatched in the northeast whitewater rafting and kayaking destination.

While forestry can be ugly and harmful to the environment, it is temporary and much of the damage it leaves behind can be mitigated once the area is no longer actively logged.  Consider White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, sold to the federal government as a stump field and now home to some of the healthiest forests and most intact ecosystems found in New England.

Therefore, while the claim that the proposed power line would destroy “pristine wilderness” may be exaggerated, the potential impact on Maine’s natural resources is not. While I don’t like a lot of what’s happening to Maine’s forests, this is even worse, and for one reason: It’s permanent. And the short-term economic gains do not come close to offsetting the long-term losses.

Trees grow back, floods remove silt from streams, and when allowed to do so, Mother Nature can fix much of what is broken when we give her time to do so.

But powerlines are here to stay as the cost to remove them, even when there is a reason to do so, is insurmountable. Even where powerlines have been modified to increase capacity, the old infrastructure is rarely torn down, just left unused.

It’s time for Maine’s leaders to take a big-picture, long-term view here. It’s time to consider what the area someday could be, not just what it is today. It’s time to think about what’s best for your kids, their kids, and generations to come — not just what a few see as good for Maine today.

Maine is, or should be, more than just working forests and powerlines.

The power line would provide some level of short-term economic gains at the expense of long-term economic health, quality of place, and future options. Nothing I’m aware of coexists well with, or benefits by, large powerl ines such as that being proposed by CMP.  Once power lines are built, little if any commerce or recreation occurs in their path.

If Maine goes forward with this ill-advised plan, it will destroy any chance the area in question has of being anything but a less attractive version of what it is today, an over-worked working forest.

If we can’t save the Maine woods for what it is, maybe we can save it for what it could be: A pristine wilderness and some of the last undeveloped land in New England.

Bob Mallard is a resident of Skowhegan.


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