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Editor's Desk

MAGIC Members Witholding Information of Involvement in the Backcountry Project
By Ken Anderson
Jun 22, 2006 - 6:20:00 PM

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When the Portland Press Herald first reported on the secret meetings that were being held between our state government and various environmental organizations, I was shocked but not surprised, since I had been warning of just such a collusion for the past few years, as had others before me.

I also suspected that the Millinocket Area Growth and Investment Council (MAGIC) had been involved, given their longterm associations with such environmental organizations as The Nature Conservancy, The Wilderness Society, and Coastal Enterprises.

Through our print publication, All Maine Matters, we submitted Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the state agencies and officials known to have been involved, asking for information regarding the Backcountry Project.

We received a large packet of information, much of which will be helpful for an article that I am currently writing about the Backcountry Project, but it also included a series of emails, including one from Steve Spencer, the Backcountry Project Director, to Bruce D. McLean and Matt Polstein, MAGIC's executive director and founder, respectively, both of whom currently serve on the Millinocket Town Council.

These emails, dated between December 16 and December 19, 2005, specifically refer to Spencer as the Backcountry Project Director, so there could be no misunderstanding. They also appear to have been a continuation of a prior conversation, so it can be assumed that Councilors McLean and Polstein were aware of, and entrusted with information relating to the Backcountry Project prior to those dates.

Further investigation revealed that Matt Polstein was one of three scheduled speakers at a February 2, 2005 LURC meeting, where the topic of discussion was the Backcountry Project. The other two speakers were Albro Cowperthwaite, of the North Maine Woods Organization, and Steven Spencer, the Backcountry Project Director.

So any gestures of surprise or concern over the Backcountry Project on the part of Councilors McLean or Polstein were a ruse, as they have played some role in this conspiracy at least since December of 2005.

In our attempt to determine the exact nature of the role played by Councilors McLean and Polstein, we delivered FOI requests for copies of all correspondence between either of these councilors and the Maine State Department of Conservation, Maine Natural Areas Program, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Baxter State Park, Bureau of Parks and Lands, or any state office.

Shortly after we delivered these requests, Councilor Polstein and Attorney Dean Beaupain, both MAGIC founders, paid a visit to the Town Manager, apparently directing him not to cooperate with our request.

We received, from Gene Conlogue, a letter stating that compliance with our request would come at a cost that would exceed $500.00, which must be paid in advance.

While the town is permitted under the law to charge a maximum of $10.00 per hour for searching the town records, I would have to question whether others are being charged this amount, for one thing. For another, we weren't seeking access to records held by the Town of Millinocket.

We were seeking access to records held by Councilors Matt Polstein and Bruce McLean, and I would suggest that if it would take them fifty hours to compile all of the records tying them in to the Backcountry Project, then their involvement in this conspiracy is even greater than I suspected.

From Councilor Polstein, we received a response stating that he is advised by the Town's attorney that "as an individual member of the Millinocket Town Council, (his) duties as a public official do not include custody of Town records."

We weren't looking for Town records, Councilor Polstein. We were looking for records documenting your complicity in the Backcountry Project. We already have some of them in our possession, provided by agencies that do comply with FOI requests, so we know that they do exist.

Councilor McLean sent our FOI request back to us after scrawling over both sides of it with a felt pen, in a manner that was as disturbing as it was plain silly.

You might want to report that to the police, Bruce. They were the ones who delivered it.

Bruce, you might want to trade that in for one that can differentiate between a uniformed police officer and my wife.

Councilors McLean and Polstein, we already know that you were involved in the Backcountry Project, and we shall continue in our efforts to ascertain the extent of your involvement in these secret meetings. Your refusal to comply with our Freedom of Information requests suggests only that you have something to hide.

But we knew that, didn't we?


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