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August 30, 2011 | last updated December 1, 2011 2:42 pm

Critics question LURC task force

Gov. Paul LePage and lawmakers have named 12 people to a panel to study the future of the Land Use Regulation Commission, but critics argued the appointees are biased against the commission.

On Friday, LePage, Senate President Kevin Raye and House Speaker Robert Nutting released the names of the 12 people on the panel, including Washington County Commissioner Christopher Gardner; Donald White, president and CEO of Prentiss & Carlisle and president of the Maine Forest Products Council; and Tom Rumpf of the Maine chapter of The Nature Conservancy (see below for a full list), the Bangor Daily News reported. Maine Department of Conservation Commissioner Bill Beardsley is also on the panel. Lawmakers butted heads earlier this year over a bill, backed by LePage, to abolish LURC, and instead created the group to recommend ways to reform land use planning in the state's unorganized territories. Its report is due in January.

However, some Democrats and environmental groups argued the makeup of the panel is mostly comprised of people who support dismantling LURC instead of reforming it. Cathy Johnson of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, as well as Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, told MaineToday Media that the panel includes several people who vocally supported the bill that would have abolished LURC, and Jym St. Pierre of RESTORE: The North Woods told the Daily News that only one panel member has had direct experience with LURC "from a positive side." Opponents said the panel's composition will not produce objective recommendations for reform.

The other panelists are: Elbridge Cleaves, president of the Woodie Wheaton Land Trust; Somerset County Commissioner Robert Dunphy; Durward Humphrey of Benedicta Township; Greenville Town Manager Gary Lamb; Greenville area resident Duane Lander; Sarah Medina of the Maine Tourism Commission and Seven Islands Land Co.; Don Kleiner of the Maine Professional Guides Association; Judith Cooper East of the Washington County Council of Governments; and Hank McPherson, president of McPherson Timberlands.

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