Role of the Forest Society of Maine Regarding Wind Power Activities on Weyerhaeuser Lands Subject to the Moosehead Region Conservation Easement
The Forest Society of Maine (FSM) is Holder of the Moosehead Region Conservation Easement (MRCE) on Weyerhaeuser lands in the Moosehead Lake region. This easement was granted to FSM as a result of the Land Use Regulation Commission’s 2009 approval of Plum Creek’s Concept Plan for the region. The long public process that led to the approval of the Concept Plan included discussion of wind power and whether the MRCE should allow those activities on the MRCE lands. The final approved easement defines three distinct areas on the west side of Moosehead Lake where wind power activities may potentially occur.
Status of Wind Power Activities on the MRCE: To date there is no application before a state permitting agency for a wind project to be developed in these identified areas. However, several years ago meteorological (MET) towers to measure atmospheric conditions and other variables were approved by the Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) and were installed. MET towers are typically a precursor to a wind project application. In anticipation that a wind project could be proposed, and recognizing that the communities that could potentially be affected have voiced concern about a project, FSM undertook a careful review of the terms of the MRCE and confirmed with the Maine Office of the Attorney General and Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Bureau of Parks and Lands staff on FSM’s role regarding a potential wind power project proposal on Misery Ridge — one of the three areas defined in the MRCE.
The following questions and answers summarize FSM’s potential role:
Q. What is the role of FSM as Holder of the Moosehead Region Conservation Easement (MRCE) on Weyerhaeuser lands regarding a possible wind turbine project on Misery Ridge?
A. Under the terms of the MRCE, FSM has a very limited role in the approval process of any wind power activities in the three wind power zones on Weyerhaeuser lands subject to the MRCE, including Misery Ridge. Section 3.C.5. of the MRCE provides that FSM’s approval with respect to proposed wind power activities on the easement lands is “deemed granted” unless the State’s permitting standards in effect in May 2012 are either not used in making the permitting decisions or have been changed in a manner that makes them less protective of the Conservation Values of the Property.
Q. Are there any circumstances that would lead FSM to make an assessment of whether or not a proposed wind power activity would cause an undue adverse effect on the Conservation Values protected by the MRCE?
A. Only if FSM affirmatively finds that the state regulatory permitting standards in effect at the time of an application are less protective than the standards that were in effect on May 2012 (or that the May 2012 standards were not used) would FSM then have authority to evaluate whether or not proposed wind power activities permitted under the MRCE would cause an undue adverse effect on the Conservation Values. FSM cannot make such a finding regarding the applicable regulatory standards until an application for a specific project has been submitted to the appropriate state agencies as permitting standards may change over time.
Q. Who does have decision-making authority over proposals for wind power activities proposed for Weyerhaeuser lands subject to the MRCE?
A. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is the primary state permitting review agency for wind power development and will be required to apply the applicable regulatory standards at that time. The Maine Land Use Planning Commission also has a role in the process but is not the primary review agency.
Q. Does FSM have any other role with regard to wind power activities under the MRCE?
A. FSM has authority under Section 4.A.2 (c) of the MRCE to review and approve the length, width, and surface material of roads, and the size and capacity of utility transmission structures that are part of proposed wind power activities.
Q. Does FSM have any position regarding proposed wind turbine activity on lands subject to the MRCE?
A. As the Holder of the MRCE, FSM has an obligation to not prejudge issues that could come before it in its role as Holder of the MRCE. For that reason, FSM has not taken a position for or against the development of wind power activities on lands subject to the MRCE.
Q. In addition to being the Holder of the MRCE, what is FSM’s involvement in the Moosehead Lake region?
A. Outside of its role as Holder of the MRCE, FSM has been involved in the Moosehead Lake region since the early 2000s when FSM worked with forestland owners to conserve the West Branch of the Penobscot River and Big Spencer Mountain. More recently, FSM staff helped conserve Moosehead Lake shoreline in Little W Township and have been participating on the Branding Development Team and serving on the Moosehead Lake Region Economic Development Corporation, helping to promote the branding of the region as “America’s Crown Jewel.” FSM also holds conservation easements on other lands in the Moosehead Lake region and continues to work to conserve additional important lands in this area.