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Statement From DLLT Regarding Temporary Road Closures

March 19, 2021

Regarding Temporary Access Restrictions (Mud Season) in the Downeast Lakes Community Forest

We have learned that the Passamaquoddy Tribal Government and members of the Passamaquoddy Tribe have expressed concerns related to DLLT’s Mud Season Access Policy, specifically the temporary closure of roads during the spring mud season.

One of the core principals of DLLT’s mission is to provide high quality access to the forest for everyone.  All of our programs and management activities are designed to further that goal.

We are deeply distressed because DLLT and the Passamaquoddy Tribe both have benefitted from a strong working relationship for the past 20 years.  Together, we have undertaken many successful collaborative projects including coordinated efforts to conserve and manage natural resources, and educational programs presented to students at the Indian Township School, and to all the members of our communities in the Grand Lake Stream School Building.  These joint efforts have strengthened both communities, and supported our shared interest in the environmental and economic well-being of the region.

DLLT has been timely and transparent about plans for temporary road closures since the decision was first made in October of 2020.  Since that time, numerous notices about the policy change were made on social media and the DLLT website, a November 2020 mailing describing the plans in detail was delivered to every mail recipient at Indian Township, notice was posted in the Calais Advertiser, and the Passamaquoddy Tribal Forestry Department was personally contacted and informed.

The gates used to temporarily close the roads were installed in November 2020, and have been visible in their intended locations for more than five months.  During this time, no concerns were expressed to DLLT on behalf of the Passamaquoddy Tribal Government or its departments, so we were both concerned and distressed to learn – days before road closure plans – that the Tribal Government has such strong feelings on the matter.

Mud season typically lasts only a few short weeks.  By temporarily closing the roads during this brief season, we can protect public safety, maintain better road quality for the rest of the year, and use funds to improve access rather than repair it.  These road restrictions apply equally to all individuals and groups. In accordance with DLLT’s policy, accommodations have been made to provide access for local law enforcement and emergency services during the regular performance of their official duties, and for a small number of individuals whose sole, permanent residences are accessible only across DLLT roads. All dwellings on tribal land remain accessible to tribal members by other vehicular means. The additional investments in road improvements facilitated by these temporary restrictions will benefit everyone.

As we have noted in all prior communications regarding this issue, the temporary closure of roads in the Downeast Lakes Community Forest is in response to annual damages that occur on all DLLT roads.  In a typical year, we estimate these damages exceed $20,000 to repair, on top of an annual road maintenance investment of more than $100,000 and a major initiative that began in 2020 to improve the quality of all community forest roads.  When mud season damages cannot be immediately repaired, they can impede access for all users of the road network, and in some cases they endanger soil and water quality.  Numerous strandings occur each year when vehicles become stuck on the roads, requiring response from local law enforcement and emergency services.

Many social media comments related to this issue include factual inaccuracies that do not reflect the policies of DLLT or our intentions.

We would be happy to meet with members of Tribal Government or other tribal stakeholders to provide facts and to deal with all issues related to mud season protection.  Grand Lake Stream, Downeast Lakes Land Trust, and the Passamaquoddy Tribe have long benefitted from a warm relationship that has produced many mutually beneficial initiatives.  We look forward to working with Tribal Government to resolve and move past this issue and to continue to be good neighbors.