Roxanne Quimby, the rags-to-riches woman who wants to create a Federal wilderness park in the north woods, has been getting a lot of positive press lately. The once-reviled cosmetic tycoon, who angered a lot of Maine folks by buying up large tracts of land and shutting out traditional users, has — if you believe press reports — moderated her hard-line approach. There is no arguing the fact that she knows the value of negotiating and, up to a point, she will bargain with locals if it serves her long-term goals. In fact, a number of highly visible spokesmen for sportsmen, Bill Myers of the Maine Snowmobiler’s Association and former SAM director George Smith, to name a few, have publicly said that the woman “has come around” and can be reasoned with.
To her credit, she has allowed some snowmobile trails to remain open on her land. Her magnanimity, however, was, in reality an act of cool-headed pragmatism: she got something in exchange for her cooperative gesture. Myers has a valid point when he asserts that, since Quimby holds the cards, it doesn’t do much good to ignore her and hope she goes away. When it comes to Maine’s north woods, she is a big player and getting more so every day. Maine citizens, including sportsmen and traditional north woods users hold some cards too. For all of her power and wealth, Roxanne Quimby is not insulated from the state and federal legislative process. As she well knows, there are changes she cannot make, goals she cannot attain and dreams she cannot realize without the consent of the governed.
So what are we to do?
For one thing, Maine citizens, who have shown a gullibility at times and a penchant for being snookered by media cant, need to take a hard line with Ms Quimby. Hold her feet to the fire. Negotiate with her if need be, but be as hard at the bargaining table as she is. Let’s face it. When it comes to land negotiations, state government has shown a knack for always getting the short end of the stick. It needs to do better.
Quimby needs to be sized up by what she does, not what she says.
Recently, she purchased a famous old sporting camp, Lunksoos Camps, situated on the East Branch of the Penobscot River, along with some adjoining acreage. Not a big deal, really, in the Quimby land-acquisition equation, except for one thing. A Quimby spokesman said that the Lunksoos land, which has always been open to hunting will, under Quimby ownership, not likely be open to hunting. The camps, which historically hosted fishermen, snowsledders and hunters, will be transformed into an “artistic and scientific center.” Say goodbye to another piece of Maine’s north woods legacy.
Surprised? You should not be. If you are, then you have been snookered by the media image of Ms. Quimby. For, make no mistake about it, the woman is unalterably anti-hunting. You will see white blackbirds when this large Maine wilderness owner embraces Maine’s hunting heritage, or compromises her anti-hunting posture at the bargaining table.
Not convinced? Listen to this. Earlier this spring, State Rep. Paul Davis introduced a bill in the state legislature that made a lot of sense. LD 55, An Act to Restore Hunting Rights in the Katahdin Lake Region, would have restored traditional use that was taken away when this land, east of Baxter State Park, was annexed to the park. Davis was forced to pull the bill when Ms. Quimby indicated to Rep. Davis that there would be reprisals. She said that if he went through with his bill, she would close down a major snow-sled trail in her township that abuts Katahdin Lake land!
Like Ms. Quimby, Bill Myers or George Smith, we all have our priorities. Myers, who speaks for snow sledders, may find Quimby reasonable. Those of us who prize Maine’s hunting heritage and traditional-use access to land cannot possibly believe that this woman has our best interests at heart. We need to see her for who she is, and remind ourselves that, despite her new user-friendly image, declaring oneself a sheep does not defang the wolf.
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His email address is [email protected] and his new book is “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook.”