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
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
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
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
|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
But we knew that, didn't we?