One Million Acres

One of the subplots of The Poacher's Son concerns the sale of thousands of acres of the Maine North Woods to a timber company that is more interested in real estate development than sustainable forestry. Maine has seen numerous sales of this nature over the past decade or so—and the forest is still changing hands, as today's Bangor Daily News reports:

Under a deal slated to be completed Feb. 1, a company called BBC Land LLC with ties to a Colorado billionaire will purchase more than 900,000 acres — much of it in eastern and western Maine — from current owner GMO Renewable Resources.

John Cashwell, a local consultant for BBC Land, said very little will change under the new ownership. BBC Land will continue to manage the land as a working forest and will still allow public access for recreation, Cashwell said.

Cashwell declined to name the individuals behind BBC Land but described them as “a family from away with ties to Maine” committed to keeping it a working forest. He also declined to name a purchase price.

“This is not a short-term play,” Cashwell said. “It’s a family that is in it for the long term.”

But documents filed last week with the Maine Secretary of State’s Office listed John Malone of Englewood, Colo., as the only manager for BBC Land.

Malone is chairman of Liberty Media, an Englewood-based company with diverse media interests that include the cable channel QVC, the travel website, the Atlanta Braves baseball team and Sirius XM satellite radio.

Ranked No. 110 on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans, Malone also has emerged as one of the country’s largest individual private landowners in recent years. Malone was No. 5 on a list of the Top 100 landowners in the U.S. in 2010 that was published by The Land Report magazine.

Malone was said to own 1.2 million acres, roughly the same amount as the Irving family, Maine’s largest single landowner. Depending on the scope of Malone’s involvement in the BBC Land deal, he could challenge or even top fellow media mogul Ted Turner as the largest private landowner in the U.S.

Malone already owns tens of thousands of acres in Maine. In 2002, he purchased more than 53,000 acres in western Maine and had previously purchased roughly 15,000 acres around Spencer Lake.

By coincidence, Spencer Lake was the site of the Hobbstown POW camp mentioned in the prologue of The Poacher's Son. But unlike the board members of my fictional Wendigo Timber Company, Malone has so far proven to be responsible steward of his land holdings in western Maine.