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"Preserving" Maine's Woods

THE established concept of security in one's property and possessions has eroded in our state of Maine, and no doubt folks in other states are similarly bereft. This is not something to send and ask for whom the bell tolls - it concerns us all, and it is more than a trend.Bill and I have just returned from our annual meditative week deep in the Maine woods, and as this was our 28th visitation, we feel we have completed our apprenticeship and can speak as experts. We are not overpleased that our beloved wilderness has been taken over by the preservationists. When Bill's daughter was coerced into marrying my son, we felt the incipient grandpops should get acquainted, so we tented out at Baker Lake, where the St. John River commences, and brought culture and gracious living to the uninhabited wildland townships of northwestern Maine. It might have been Henry David Thoreau who said, "There is no law beyond Greenville and no hope beyond Seboomook," but it was not. It was Del Bates, lumbercamp clerk for the Great Northern Paper Company, who read Thoreau's "The Ma ine Woods" one summer and said, "The poor joker didn't know where he was a good part of the time." It was Del who told Bill and me, "Why do you bother with a tent? I've got the key to the camp at Cauc Dam." So for 27 consecutive July weeks, Bill and I have rusticated comfortably under a tight roof with pleasure and privilege. The camp, relic of an old-time logging camp, has been used by occasional scalers on company business, or by men who come to work on the dam - a water storage dam that controls flowage of the Penobscot River's west branch. If the mill far down at Millinocket needs more water, somebody comes to open a sluice gate at Cauc Dam. Thoreau was there in his time, but he couldn't spell Caucomagomac and called it St. John Lake. Thoreau never foresaw the traffic - when Bill and I first held our meditative seminars a t Cauo Lake, we saw no moccasin tracks save our own. This year we were astonished that a sign-setting policy has been instituted and applied, and as we approached camp, we found highway instructions that screech indelicacy in a remote forest. Worse and worse, we found huge signs along the river, telling canoeists what to do if the water rises. Would you believe that one morning a pickup truck loaded with signs came to our camp, and the driver said he was looking for places to put more signs? Some federal agency bent on "preserving" the wilderness is hard at work. And, whatever this agency is, driven no doubt by vociferous pleas from do-gooders, the rights and privileges of the landowners have been subverted. Do I hear gasps of dismay from folks who think the bounties of nature are not exclusive? Let me quote Mr. Thoreau (who is still a competent authority): "I like better the surliness with which the wood chopper speaks of his woods, handling them as indifferently as his axe, than the mealy-mouthed enthusiasm of the lover of nature." Thoreau thought things out. So did Bill and I. We came across the dam in late afternoon, having been on one of our cultural picnics (the logging road runs atop the dam), and found two men there. One of them had a spinning rig and was fishing off the dam into the swirling pool below the half-open spillway. The other came to speak to us through the down window of our pickup door. He told us the town in Massachusetts that was home, and said he discovered the Cauc Lake area years back and came every summer to enjoy it. Much like Bill a nd me. But unlike Bill and me, they came not as guests of the management. They had no road pass, no key to gates, no shelter. No kindly host with warm invitation. They were there under the new presumption that some inherent right prevailed. Now, as to fishing off the dam: When the Great Northern Paper Company built that dam five years ago at great expense and for corporate purposes, the state of Maine required that a fishway be included. It cost GNP Co. much extra to include this. A fishway, sometimes called a "ladder," is a series of pools that permits trout, salmon, and other fish to pass up or down on their spawning runs. It is a conservation device, and to protect the fish as they pass the state forbids angling within 150 feet of a fish way. So here was this chap "from away" breaking our laws. A game warden might have caught him except that just then a float plane arrived and flew the two men back to Massachusetts.

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