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Sue Gawler <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
- JBS-L - Josselyn Botanical Society discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 25 Sep 2003 13:15:06 -0400
text/plain (114 lines)
Hi Josses -

Thought you might appreciate seeing this news item from the 9/24 York County
Journal Tribune - I added the scientific names, but that's it. (If you want
the original item, go to http://www.journaltribune.com/wednesday/news2.html)
Hope you are all enjoying this lovely fall
botanizing-or-anything-else-outdoors weather!

Sue Gawler

Rare plants on casino property
By TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune
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SANFORD — A day after Gordon “Bud” Johnston told the town’s casino task
force he hadn’t found endangered plant life on the proposed casino property
last month, he walked the land again and found four threatened species.

Johnston found white-topped aster (Sericocarpus asteroides) and hollow
joe-pye weed (Eupatorium fistulosum), listed as “critically imperiled” and
“imperiled,” respectively, on the state’s list of endangered plants.

He also found Schreber’s aster (Aster schreberi) and late purple aster
(Symphyotrichum patens), listed as “extirpated” – which means the plants are
an historically occurring species for which habitat no longer exists in
Maine and hasn’t been documented in 20 years.

Johnston has walked the 360-acre site half a dozen times since it was
identified as the location for the proposed casino, hotel and golf course.
“If I spent time there in four seasons, I’m confident I could find dozens of
(threatened) plants,” he said.

As a scientist and environmental consultant for the town, Johnston said his
job is to be objective; he hasn’t taken a public stand on the issue.

“My purpose was to walk the land and review it,” Johnston said.

If Mainers vote on Nov. 4 to allow the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Indians
to operate the $650 million casino, and if Sanford approves the
construction, about 40 acres of the heavily wooded tract will be stripped
for buildings, Johnston estimated. Another 80 to 100 acres will become a
golf course.

A longtime naturalist and horticulturist, he said his concerns include loss
of plant and animal habitat, impact of vegetation removal and wastewater
management. The land is one of the largest undisturbed tracts within the
town limits, Johnston said.

One inch of rain results in 10 million gallons of water on the site, he
estimated. Because its heavily forested, the land now absorbs the rainfall.
And while project plans include a pond to deal with the water that
accumulates after paving or construction, Johnston believes runoff from
parking lots and roofs – and the pollutants that come with them – could end
up in groundwater.

“Any dissolved substances such as salts, gasses or ions will move freely
with overflow water or percolate through the bottom of the pond to the water
table,” he said. Open space created by the golf course will alter
temperature and humidity of the land, he added.

Johnston, a former Nasson College ecology professor, retired environmental
science teacher and a longtime radio and television authority on plant life,
outlined his findings to the Citizens Casino Advisory Task Force last month.
He is scheduled to do a further environmental assessment for the town.

Meanwhile, he has found peat bogs, clumps of lilac bushes and a cemetery. He
knows how water drains off the property toward Perkins Marsh Brook and
eventually the Mousam River. Johnston has seen evidence of deer and moose,
including what may be a deer wintering yard. A discontinued road through the
property dates from before the Revolutionary War, he estimated.

The land first came under public scrutiny in the mid-1970s, when Gibbs Oil
Co. planned a refinery there and on another adjacent 900 acres. The proposed
casino site was to be undeveloped, a buffer between oil company operations
and the Rosenfield housing development, Johnston recalled. Ultimately, he
said, Gibbs Oil went bankrupt and the plan was scrapped.

Johnston isn’t the only one concerned about the project’s environmental

Maine Audubon Society two weeks ago announced its opposition to the casino,
partly because Audubon trustees fear it will spur other development and
increase the threat to wildlife areas near the site, Audubon conservation
Director Sally Stockwell said.

Southern Maine has the greatest species diversity and largest number of rare
species in the state, she said. Nearby is the southern portion of the
Massabesic Experimental Forest, Sanford Ponds and the Sanford and Wells

Kennebunk Kennebunkport & Wells Water District trustees will likely discuss
their position on the casino tonight, Superintendent Norman Labbe said. KK&W
owns 500 acres of land, bought a few years ago to protect its Branch Brook
water supply. But while the brook itself is about a mile away, the watershed
is in a portion of the property outlined as a buffer zone between the
Rosenfield subdivision and the proposed main entrance into the casino land.

“The protection of the watershed is our primary concern,” Labbe said.

Johnston, meanwhile made this conclusion in his report to the casino panel:

“Conversion of forest land into pavement and buildings,” he said, “is an
environmental whammy.”

Susan C. Gawler
Gawler Conservation Services
256 Guptill Road
Belgrade, Maine 04917
(207) 495-3513 phone
(207) 495-3444 fax
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