The Roles of Private Entities

Compilation and Summary of Audience Questions by Aime Schwartz, Colby '08

 

Despite the important role of land trusts and government regulation in the North Woods, private entities ultimately determine the uses, values, and social utility of land in the Unorganized Territory. This panel addressed key issues associated with the relationship between private interests and Maine's current regulatory regimes.   This is a summary of the questions submitted by the audience. 

 

What are the major trends in land use and what is their significance? What non-regulatory initiatives can government pursue to strengthen the economy in the North Woods? The panelists agreed that the administrative and regulatory burdens currently being imposed on landowners are a hindrance to economic growth and the viability of the North Woods economy.

 

What are the structural deficiencies in Maine's regulatory system that may cause problems in the future?

 

The viability of Maine's estate tax was brought into question, citing the need to determine whether public policy and perverse taxation structure are driving fragmentation and exacerbating change.

 

Should regulations promote concentrated and controlled development, or allow small scale development continue to spread across the North Woods? This leads to the critical issue of infrastructure in the Unorganized Territory. Panelists indicated support for a capital investment project to build an East-West road that would facilitate and expand the movement of goods, people, and services in the northern part of the state. Is an East-West railroad a viable transportation alternative to a highway? How else can we address transportation infrastructure needs?

 

Economic growth in the Unorganized Territory is a primary concern for many. Has the lack of a stable tax law had a direct impact on business in the Unorganized Territory as it has elsewhere in Maine?

 

Uncertainties associated with the Tree Growth Tax Law have made long-term land ownership difficult for many owners in Northern Maine. How do the incremental impacts of laws, rules, and tax structures affect landowners?

 

Stability of regulation and predictability of government behavior is a critical means of eliminating the threat of change and stabilizing land ownership. What additional challenges does Maine's forest products industry face?

 

Do increased energy prices create an unfair cost burden for Maine's industries?

 

In an earlier panel, Mark Lapping of the Muskie School noted that Maine does not have a "value added" economy. Are there growing job opportunities in new "value added" products in Northern Maine, or will the economy remain reliant on raw materials? This sheds light on the trade-offs between industry and environment that are often associated with economic growth.

 

Are renewable resources such as biofuels, composites, medicinals, and botanicals a viable alternative to commodities? How can they be introduced in tandem with paper manufacturing?

 

What is the impact of the shortage of young loggers and what can be done to overcome it?

 

As anticipated, a large portion of the panel discussion focused on development trends. A graph shown during the introduction illustrated the small percentage of the LURC jurisdiction that has been subject to development, and implied that future development is an overstated concern. However, many argue that ownership changes are likely to increase development at a rapid rate. Will transitioning land ownership patterns challenge increase development patterns or are they likely to remain unchanged?

 

What portion of the development that has taken place in the Unorganized Territory is in highly visible locations where the impact of development would be multiplied?   Are the specific areas that are being developed increasing attention toward development trends and exaggerating their scope?

 

This is becoming an increasingly important question, as development initiatives in high profile areas such as the Moosehead Lake region draw national attention and concern.

 

Regarding paying for carbon credits, why should landowners be paid not to cut trees and reduce CO2 releases when we don't pay utilities to reduce CO2 emissions from their smokestacks?

 

What is Maine's competitive advantage in the forest products industry and what economic opportunities can northern Maine pursue most efficiently?

 

Should we abolish LURC and let the market rule? Is the LURC policy approach still a relevant and effective means of addressing current challenges in the North Woods? How can we re-examine LURC's regulatory approach? How can we provide a flexible legislative and regulatory framework to enable community development and opportunity in northern Maine, while accommodating the wide range of land use objectives and protecting public interest?

 

These are all critical questions as ownership patterns and land use objectives continue to drive sweeping change throughout the Unorganized Territory.