Oct 23, 2008

Deal of Shame: Fall '08 ME Sierra Club newsletter omits Sears Island!

It was positively astonishing to open the very latest newsletter from the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club that arrived in the Penobscot Bay Watch post office box.

Surely, I thought, Sears Island must be the top feature - the Club's Gordian knot-cutting courage and cleverness adopting the "historic" Joint Use consensus compromise also praised by land trusters, Governor and railroad baronet alike.

No. Nothing. Not a word about Sears island.

Shouldn't the eight page Maine Sierra Club chapter newsletter be awash in minutiae of the MDOT plan this 940 acre island that the Club signed onto? The one splitting Sears Island into natural and industrial port zones.

For now the final steps loom:

MDOT must secure approval by the Legislature's transportation Committee of its Joint Use plan. Especially its private conservation easement with MCHT on 600 acres of public land on the 941 acre island Should this approval be granted (and this is by no means a sure thing) then a shadowy container port developer waiting in the wings will stride forth into the glare of the public spotlight.

UPDATE: According to an Army Corps of Engineers official, if the legislature approves the Joint Use Plan, the Corps expects to receive a Sears Island port development application before the end of November.

But according to the "Deal" that Maine Sierra Club signed months ago, the Club is committed to acquiescing in that developer's port plan, as long as it meets environmental standards. The Club can hardly protest that the island is not a good location, for as signatory to the Baldacci Consensus Agreement on Sears Island, Sierra Club's official position must be that the island is an "appropriate" location for one.

But in the newsletter not a word on 'port-appropriate' Wassumkeag.

Alas, Wasumkeag! "Island of the Shining Shore" to the Wabanakis for so many thousands of years! Both natural Noah's ark of coastal Maine plant and animal species, and a sheltering lea behind which Penobscot Bay's most important fish nursery and anadromous fish staging areas carry out their brackish water ecological duties, uniting river, bay and Gulf of Maine! Industrial sprawl is imminent.

For the leadership of the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club is comfortable with Sears Island as but one more "issue" to use as bargaining chip in the unending game of influence in Statehouse evironmental politics. The chapter's webpage on Sears Island hasn't been updated in six months.

The rank and file of the Maine Sierra Club Chapter, it has been decided, won't be allowed to vote on whether their conservation group should stand shoulder to shoulder with a container port developer. Tsk Tsk.

No mention?

The Fall 2008 edition of the Maine Sierran discusses a lot of other things. It endorses four candidates, ponders transboundary forestry between Maine and Canada, invites one to "Sierra Club Maine's Annual Dinner", November 14th in Freeport; frowns upon continuing Bush admin machinations against the Clean Water Act; admits to being "stunned" when LURC gave Plum Creek a preliminary OK to commit sprawl at Moosehead Lake. Joan Saxe praises Governor Baldacci's "right direction on Rail Transportation"; two wind turbine proposals get the nod; "informed growth" regulations are examined, and a number of outings and hikes are offered. But, .......

Not a peep about Sears Island .

In 2005, Club leaders promised to "permanently protect the natural heritage and public access legacies of Sears Island"

Where did that promise go?

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