PORTLAND (AP) – Two high-profile lawyers have agreed to represent Maine environmental organizations at reduced fees to fight Plum Creek Timber Co.’s proposal for a large-scale development in the Moosehead Lake region.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine has hired Portland attorney Peter DeTroy, while Maine Audubon has hired Harry Richardson of Bangor.

DeTroy and Richardson are well-known lawyers, although neither is known for work on environmental issues or before state regulatory boards.

Both say they are representing the environmental groups before the Land Use Regulation Commission at reduced rates because they think it’s an important case.

“It’s why I got into this whole business to begin with,” DeTroy said. “It’s a chance to do something I really care about for a larger public good. This is challenging, interesting, important stuff.”

Plum Creek has applied to rezone land around Moosehead Lake for its proposal to develop nearly 1,000 house lots and two resorts in an area that serves as the gateway to the North Woods.

The development, the largest ever proposed for Maine, is expected to be a complex case.

Plum Creek, a Seattle-based real estate investment trust that is the country’s largest private landowner, has worked with several Portland law firms, including Preti Flaherty Beliveau and Pachios, and Verrill Dana.

LURC has hired outside legal help to review the plan. The commission contracted with environmental lawyer Ronald Kreisman, who has represented a number of environmental groups, and Evan Richert, the former state planning director.

LURC is now reviewing Plum Creek’s plan, and public hearings could be nine months or more away.

Richardson, 76, said Plum Creek’s proposal is “astonishing in size and would have a tsunami-like impact.”

“There is not any development that even approaches it, not even close,” he said.

Richardson said disputes over the development could be resolved before the hearings if Plum Creek agrees to reduce the size and the areas that it plans to develop.

Jim Lehner, Plum Creek’s general manager for the Northeast region, said Plum Creek already has scaled back its plans in response to environmentalists’ concerns and is not likely to change more.

“How many times do you go back to the drawing board?” Lehner said.

Information from: Portland Press Herald, http://www.pressherald.com

AP-ES-08-14-06 1030EDT

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