MOUNT CHASE – J.D. Irving Ltd.’s pending sale of more than 70,000 acres has some residents of Maine’s North Woods on edge.

The woodland, which Irving confirms is under contract to undisclosed parties, is spread across four northern Penobscot County townships and abut the eastern border of Baxter State Park.

The East Branch of the Penobscot River flows through two northern townships, while Katahdin Lake, with its famed views of Baxter State Park, is located in the southern part of the parcel.

On Thursday, more than 75 residents gathered at a business near Shin Pond to discuss their concerns. Some worry the land will become part of a North Woods National Park. Others are frustrated the state didn’t buy it.

Roxanne Quimby, who has used her own money to purchase large parcels for the proposed park, declined to say if she is one of the buyers. “This information is speculative and I cannot comment on rumors,” she said Friday in an e-mail.

RESTORE: The North Woods, which is promoting the national park, includes the property within its proposed park boundary.

But Jym St. Pierre, the organization’s director in Maine, said RESTORE is not a party to the purchase of the properties.

He said he was concerned about reports by the Maine Environmental News that a logging company will buy the southern parcels. What will become of the northern parcels is still unknown.

Chuck Gadzik, Irving’s Maine-based forester, confirmed that all 70,000-plus acres were put on the market in December. The lands were placed under contract about three weeks ago, and ownership will be transferred by the end of the year, he said. Irving bought the land when it acquired 1 million acres and the Pinkham Lumber Co. in Nashville Plantation from Bowater Inc. in 1999.

Irving had always intended to sell off these parcels because of their distance from Irving’s processing facilities, a problem that is compounded by a lack of wood roads in some areas, Gadzik said.

Dave Soucy, director of the state Bureau of Public Lands, assured residents on Thursday the state will contact the land’s new owner or owners and attempt to negotiate recreational access easements.

“We’re committed to keeping the lines of communication open, and if for some reason there isn’t a closing, we’ll be right back in there,” he said.

Soucy defended the state’s actions in the face of criticism. He also recommended that frustrated residents keep an open mind about the state’s wide range of land trusts and other nonprofit groups.

“It’s a big state and a big woods, and I believe there’s room for all of us,” Soucy said. “You should be careful who you target as your enemies. They just might end up being your partners.”

AP-ES-08-29-03 1205EDT

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