Vox populi, anaplasmosis, Irma. If you had never heard or read these words before, and you had to guess what they meant, you might think that vox populi was an infectious disease, “Ana Plasmosis” might be a new neighbor, possibly of Mediterranean origin, and Irma the name of an old girlfriend, perhaps fondly remembered.

The real definitions can be very different. As many of us know, vox populi is Latin for ‘the voice of the people,” anaplasmosis (as many people don’t know) is a tick-borne disease (you don’t want it), and, of course, no one needs to be told about Irma. You don’t want her either.

There was no need to worry about Irma paying us much of a visit here in Maine, though we can help those who had her on their doorstep. There are a number of preventive measures we can take to avoid getting bitten by a tick, and the right to speak our mind and share our views (vox populi) is a privilege in democratic countries which, if not exercised often, may not have much effect on decisions that we should have helped make.

Case in point: Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands has begun a 15-year management plan for approximately 63,000 acres known as the St. John-Allagash Region. The region roughly encompasses the western part of Aroostook County, as well as northernmost Somerset and Piscataquis counties. The St. John and Allagash rivers, renowned for their wilderness settings and paddling opportunities, flow through the region. Chamberlain, Allagash and Eagle lakes are among the major lakes in the region.

As part of the public planning process, a public scoping meeting was held Aug. 30, in Ashland — “where the public will have an opportunity to provide input on the region’s resources, and on issues and concerns related to management and use of the public lands to be addressed in the plan.” See this website on the management plan.

You might be thinking that 63,000 acres of land is a lot, and you might also be thinking that the state’s population, relatively speaking, is rather small and not likely to increase rapidly any time soon. On the other hand, no one is making any more land, and global population is burgeoning out of control and, after climate change, is probably the most pressing problem of our time since more people mean more consumption of finite natural resources.

The end result could well be too many people for too little space, making all the more precious those wilderness areas that we could preserve now. Those summer traffic jams (which get bigger each year) are an ominous sign of what the future holds.

The St. John–Allagash Region Management Plan is an excellent opportunity to speak out to protect this pristine wilderness area, of which there are rapidly becoming too few nationwide. It should be safeguarded against the potential disruption of human activity, not a place of engine noise and pollution, nor should it be open to hunting and trapping – killing animals by invading their homes where they expect to feel safe. Engage instead in activities that have little, if any, impact on the land and the creatures who live there.

In short, the key role we should direct Maine’s Bureau of Parks and Lands to play is that of a conscientious steward, combining the woodland admonition of “leave no trace” with the basic tenet of the Hippocratic Oath – Do No Harm.

Unfortunately, the plan does not seem to be well-publicized, and only one public hearing (cited above) was held in Aroostook County (as I discovered) near the Canadian border, with no other public hearings scheduled anywhere else in Maine, including in population centers.

However, [email protected] is taking comments from people who want to submit suggestions for management of the St.John-Allagash region public lands. You can also contact Mr. Vogel by mail at 18 Elkins Lane, Harlow Building, 22 State House Station, Augusta, ME, 04333-0022. His direct office telephone is 287-2163.

If you care about the management of public lands, how they are preserved and protected, and how they can remain part of Maine’s wilderness as a refuge and a legacy for the future, it is not too late to express your opinion. If you don’t, someone else may speak for you – and you may not like what they have to say.

Don Loprieno
Bristol