Bearing out the facts

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I read the editorial “Welcome to Bethel’s black bear buffet” (July 14) with interest and frustration. The clever tongue-in-cheek writing style was entertaining and the message clear: nuisance bears shouldn’t be encouraged.

What should be encouraged is fact-based opinions and responsible writing.

I am the consultant quoted in the editorial. As such, I have detailed knowledge of the project, the environmental review criteria, and the process of local and state review necessary to make this project succeed. For example, I happen to know who required protection for the bear’s bad eating habits.

I can happily report it wasn’t my idea. Nor did my client demand this buffer. I’m confident my client just wants a successful project, meeting common local and state regulations.

Nor did the town of Bethel, as the editorial incorrectly stated. I spend a significant portion of my time working with the town officials and planning board members in Bethel. They are excellent folk, displaying the character and common sense to know that dump bears are, by very definition, nuisance bears.

To set the record straight, the idea and requirement to provide a wooded buffer area that is used, in part, to protect bear movement patterns originated with the Portland office of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Just like hundreds of other projects throughout the state, this project requires DEP approval.

For this project, buffer areas are proposed throughout the site in order to meet DEP criteria that have nothing to do with bear habitat. In one location, DEP required a small change that increased the setback of new homes from the Bethel Transfer Station. The reason stated for the change was to protect the bear travel corridor, so that, in DEP’s opinion, the dump bears do not become nuisance bears.

The required change had no significant effect on the project goals, and increasing the setback of homes from the transfer station is a good idea for a number of other obvious reasons.

The change was made.

It is not my intent to disparage the DEP in this letter. It has a thankless job trying to protect the environment that helps make our state such an enjoyable place to live and visit. Yet, like any of us, they can make a mistake. Clearly, the stated reason for the buffer was in error.

Therefore, I agree with the editorial’s opinion: dump bears are nuisance bears that need no extra encouragement. The editorial was, however, wrong and arrogant to assume the town of Bethel or the developer proposed the buffer.

It seems the author read just enough of Terry Karkos’ earlier, and more accurate, article to form a foolish opinion.

Robert L. Berry III, project manager

Main-Land Development Consultants Inc., Livermore Falls

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