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Burt's Bees Co-Founder Wants to Donate National Park
March 28, 2011 2:00 PM   Subscribe

In 1975, with $3,000 in savings Roxanne Quimby and her boyfriend moved to Maine. They bought a tract of land on which they built a cabin and an outhouse. Near her Guilford homestead, Quimby later met beekeeper Burt Shavitz and used his beeswax to create candles (making $20,000 in her first year selling at local crafts fairs) -- and later their (yes, the two cofounded a company together) best selling product Burt's Bees Lip Balm (it's Burt's image that still graces many of the company's products). With the phenomenal success that followed, she sold 80 percent of her shares in the company to New York investors in 2003 (eventually the company was sold to Clorox) to help fund significant land purchases. For years Maine sportsmen have been outraged with Quimby for forbidding hunters, loggers, snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles on the 120,000 acres of woodlands she now owns. Quimby has recently offered a compromise. She wants to donate 70,000 acres to help create a new national park (Maine Woods National Park) while "setting aside another 30,000 acres of woodlands ... to be managed like a state park, with hunting and snowmobiling allowed."
"The multi-millionaire disarmed her critics, who thought they'd have to deal with a patchouli-scented eccentric. What they found was a woman who thinks big, but is a pragmatic problem-solver; someone who has strong ideals, but is willing to compromise; a self-made businesswoman who's willing to put up her own millions to achieve her conservation goals.

[One of her sharpest critics, George Smith, former executive director of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine has come] " ... to respect and admire her.

'I was one of her harshest critics, so it's really rather remarkable,' he said. 'In the end, it's her land and she'll do whatever suits her. But at least she's listening.'

If she can win support, Quimby wants to time her donation in five years to the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service. It would be her gift, her legacy.

The Park Service is intrigued by Quimby's idea, especially since it believes the Northeast is underserved. The last time a large national park was created was in Alaska in the 1980s during the Carter administration."*
posted by ericb (49 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
Last October Quimby was appointed to the board of the National Park Foundation.
posted by ericb at 2:02 PM on March 28, 2011


I just wanted to stop in and say that I'll be back in a bit when I figure out enough ways to say that this is really awesome.
posted by Tomorrowful at 2:03 PM on March 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Move aside Mayor Joe and Ramona, aged 8, there is a new Coolest Quimby in town. This rocks.
posted by dflemingecon at 2:05 PM on March 28, 2011 [10 favorites]


Hunters, loggers, and ohv users were outraged that they couldn't trespass on private property? For real?
posted by 2N2222 at 2:17 PM on March 28, 2011 [33 favorites]


This would be the 2nd national park in Maine (the first being Acadia National Park). At 70,000 acres, this park is a respectable size for a national park, given the range of sizes (Acadia NP is 47,390 acres).


2N2222: Hunters, loggers, and ohv users were outraged that they couldn't trespass on private property? For real?

The NY Times link ("setting aside another 30,000 acres of woodlands") starts off with a quick bit of background:
Maine sportsmen were outraged when Roxanne Quimby, the conservation-minded founder of Burt's Bees cosmetics, bought up tens of thousands of acres of Maine's fabled North Woods — and had the audacity to forbid hunters, loggers, snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles on the expanses.
...
Eugene Conlogue, town manager in Millinocket, said many outdoorsmen remain incensed over her restrictions on land they're accustomed to using for recreation, and for professional logging. But he sees a multi-faceted person.
In short, it sounds like this was generally treated as open land for general use. Coming from the land of little lots with neighbors shoulder-to-shoulder, or open range that is primarily used for cattle grazing, such open forest space seems weird, but I'm assuming it's a different general understanding of forests and whatnot.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:24 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


22.6 million acres in the state, 80% of which are forested. The Sportsmen's Alliance of Maine was pissed off that she wouldn't let them pollute and kill on 120,000 of them? Plenty of paper company land is still available (as in millions of acres) on which to get drunk and shoot an unsuspecting moose point-blank.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:28 PM on March 28, 2011 [24 favorites]


I had missed the part where Burt's had sold out to Clorox. I guess I should have known when they started turning up everywhere. I'm still glad to hear that one of the founders is doing some good with the money.
posted by immlass at 2:28 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


This would be the 2nd national park in Maine (the first being Acadia National Park). At 70,000 acres, this park is a respectable size for a national park, given the range of sizes (Acadia NP is 47,390 acres).

So if Acadia is 47 thousand, and this would be 70 thousand, wouldn't this now be the biggest?
posted by Tomorrowful at 2:28 PM on March 28, 2011


2N2222: yes.

A friend of mine, who is a Maine resident (Millinocket, in fact), has expressed many times the biggest problem with Maine is the fact that the people of Maine think anyone who wasn't born there is an outsider who doesn't understand how things should be done in Maine. There are parts of Maine that could have a thriving tourist industry except that the locals hate tourists, are not friendly to new residents, and think that they need a wall to keep people from Massachusetts out. (His words, not mine.)

Tomorrowful: the second park created, not the second largest.
posted by mephron at 2:30 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


knew someone who worked for her and has nothing but awe because she is a patchouli scented hippy who only wanted to make money to buy land and preserve it. seriously. that was exactly one of her main goals in life. i have nothing but admiration for her.
posted by liza at 2:32 PM on March 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Tomorrowful: the second park created, not the second largest.

Update: I will return to this thread when I figure out enough ways to say that this is really awesome, and also when I have learned to read.
posted by Tomorrowful at 2:32 PM on March 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


Hunters, loggers, and ohv users were outraged that they couldn't trespass on private property? For real?

Someone call the Five Man Electrical Band.
posted by inturnaround at 2:36 PM on March 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


At 70,000 acres, this park is a respectable size for a national park, given the range of sizes (Acadia NP is 47,390 acres).

The goal of Quimby and others is to set aside "3.2 million acres, an area larger than Yellowstone and Yosemite combined, into a national park."*

As a starting point, Quimby has bought up "contiguous parcels on the east side of Baxter State Park"* and hopes that conservation efforts will eventually expand way beyond her donation of land and that of the state park.
posted by ericb at 2:38 PM on March 28, 2011


Hunters, loggers, and ohv users were outraged that they couldn't trespass on private property? For real?

That's always been the case. My parents posted their land, and four times that I can remember growing up a no trespassing" sign was blasted with buckshot. The signs were shot with slugs more often that that, but it doesn't tend to obliterate the sign. And I grew up in Southern Maine where that type of idiocy is less common.

Karen Woods was shot in her backyard by a trespassing hunter. His defense was that he was shooting at a buck, and Woods was ignorantly wearing white mittens at her clothesline during hunting season. Naturally the hunter was acquitted when he was brought to trial-- it was amazing that he was charged at all.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:39 PM on March 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


While reading this, I wondered "was there really a Burt?" yes, yes there was. An article:

Burt's Bees sold out long ago
posted by jscott at 2:39 PM on March 28, 2011


This is great, thanks for posting it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:41 PM on March 28, 2011


I was going to mention the Karen Woods story to illustrate a certain kind of Maine mindset that surprises those of us who don't live there, but Mayer Curley beat me to it.

Jessamyn (I think?) has also commented on the hassle/chore of posting her land.
posted by ambrosia at 2:43 PM on March 28, 2011


Funny how their respect for property rights is just for their shit and no one else's.

Why compromise at all?
posted by Ironmouth at 2:44 PM on March 28, 2011 [15 favorites]


"...think that they need a wall to keep people from Massachusetts out"

Ah, the irony.

Maine was originally part of Massachusetts [aka Devonshire County, District of Maine, Massachusetts Bay Colony] way back when. "With peace [realized at the end of the American Revolution], the District of Maine was confirmed to be part of Massachusetts when the United States was formed, but the treaty was ambiguous about the boundary between Maine and British North America. This all but guaranteed that Maine would be a battleground in the next war [The War of 1812] as well." Maine didn't become a separate state until March 15, 1820. *
posted by ericb at 2:47 PM on March 28, 2011


Maine was originally part of Massachusetts

And given the current condition of Maine's government, I've been suggesting to my remaining friends there that it's time to come home. The abolition of slavery must have some legally nullifying affect on the Missouri Compromise. Governor Patrick should send in the National Guard to occupy the coastal towns up to Bath-- New Hampshire's not going to get involved provided the Mass NG pays at the Hampton Tolls.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:52 PM on March 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


For a lot of people in rural areas, federal ownership of land spells economic downturn. The rich like the pristine wilderness, but the locals feel shoved aside.
While she sounds great, it's too bad the company is in North Carolina.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:53 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Funny how their respect for property rights is just for their shit and no one else's.

Why compromise at all?


IANAML, but it's possible that if hunters and loggers have a long enough history of use of the land, that that might qualify as an 'unregistered easement', which is just as good as a registered one. Dunno if that was the situation here, and I can't speak to Maine law, but it might be that the possession rights weren't that (*ahem*) clearcut.
posted by Capt. Renault at 2:53 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


In Maine, a lot of land is available to hunters, snowmobilers and others. Land must be posted in order to be unavailable. When somebody posts land (makes it unavailable) that was previously unposted, people complain. However, a lot less than they're gonna complain if/when people buy up all the lakefront, and the nice views, and fence it, post it, and shut people out. This has happened a fair bit on the coast. My Mom, whose family has a long presence in Maine, was stunned that her favorite childhood places had been bought up by people who will chase you off "their" shore. Sounds like Quimby wants to make some land available to people and animals that like a quieter environment, while making some land permanently available to people who like to hunt and snowmobile. This is all kinds of awesome, and people in Maine are likely to figure it out and support it.

Hey Mayor, you' spose that's why my ex gives me a pair of wooly white mittens every Christmas?
posted by theora55 at 2:53 PM on March 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


While she sounds great, it's too bad the company is in North Carolina.

They are a fairly major employer here in Durham and a good supporter of the community, even since the Clorox sellout. And we already have the most visited national park in the country. So we're okay. I'm happy for Maine.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:01 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine, who is a Maine resident (Millinocket, in fact), has expressed many times the biggest problem with Maine is the fact that the people of Maine think anyone who wasn't born there is an outsider who doesn't understand how things should be done in Maine. There are parts of Maine that could have a thriving tourist industry except that the locals hate tourists, are not friendly to new residents, and think that they need a wall to keep people from Massachusetts out.

I'm from the "other" Maine than your friend, but this isn't quite accurate to my "raised in Maine, adult life in MA" perspective. The places in Maine that can get tourist dollars do so with a forced smile and then badmouth the people from Massachusetts when they're out of earshot. Tourism's the state's largest industry and people in day-trip distance from Greater Boston are well-aware of this.

Places as far north as Millinockett are never going to be tourist havens. Outsiders go up there to raft, maybe hunt, maybe hike in Baxter. That's it. It's a long drive and no one's going up for the culture. Certainly no one wants to live there because the ugly perceptions work both ways-- Mainers think that people from Massachusetts are condescending, self-centered, elitist pricks with more money than them. Bay Staters think that people from Maine are irritable, insular, xenophobic idiots. They're both right in the general sense, and both wrong to think that this applies to every individual from either place. But it's distance from population centers and lack of infrastructure that keeps rural Maine isolated, not the citizens.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:05 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


While she sounds great, it's too bad the company is in North Carolina.

The company (founded in 1984) moved from Maine to North Carolina in 1993.
"With an ever-expanding product line and more and more orders to fill, we knew in 1993 that we needed to expand. We searched high and low for a new home, and finally decided on business- and community-friendly North Carolina. The area was already home to several other internationally-known personal care products companies. We figured if it was good enough for them, it was good enough for us. It was also at this time that we made the difficult decision to focus our entire product line on personal care." *
posted by ericb at 3:07 PM on March 28, 2011


Related, the 30,000 acre Forest of Dennis in England started by publisher turned poet and all round odd bloke Felix Dennis
posted by Damienmce at 3:31 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Funny how their respect for property rights is just for their shit and no one else's.

Exactly. When a local enviro org bought up some private land to turn into a park, the OHV people went bonkers, having had "their" land taken away "undemocratically." Never mind that they'd been trespassing for decades. Never mind that the land was bought with contributions from a far larger segment of society than the one that uses OHVs.

Of course, their properties are papered with "No Trespassing" signs but to this day they can't be arsed to respect the law or the will of the majority.
posted by klanawa at 3:39 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


There was a Burt's Bees store in Carrboro, and Burt himself would stand out on the sidewalk, handing out coupons. I thought he was a homeless guy for the longest time.
posted by pinky at 3:43 PM on March 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Funny how their respect for property rights is just for their shit and no one else's.

ATVers, ranchers, trappers, miners, loggers, snowmobilers, and hunters typically join ranks throughout the West in keeping public land open to their questionable use, and they don't expect to pay fair cost for it either. Their sense of entitlement is weirdly channeled into conservative politics where hot-buttons are pushed against environmentalists for wanting to keep public land under public supervision. It's a good lesson to learn about Republican communism, if anyone missed the one on deficit spending.
posted by Brian B. at 3:54 PM on March 28, 2011 [13 favorites]


The places in Maine that can get tourist dollars do so with a forced smile and then badmouth the people from Massachusetts when they're out of earshot.

That's pretty much how it works in Vermont and New Hampshire too. Northern New England is far more rural than much of Massachusetts (locally read as: Boston) and Connecticut (read as: New York City). (They can't be bothered much about Rhode Island.)

That said, Northern Maine does house the one county in New England that voted for McCainM.
posted by maryr at 3:58 PM on March 28, 2011


Reminds me of Douglas Tompkins, who founded both The North Face, and Esprit, and sold his businesses and uses his money to preserve temperate rainforest land in Chile and Argentina.

Full disclosure: I volunteered with Tompkins in the 90s for 3 months. A complex man but one that we should be glad has the vision that he has.
posted by gen at 4:29 PM on March 28, 2011


The idea that hunting and environmentalism are utterly incompatible is a pretty silly one. Let's not forget that the one of the nation's largest wetlands conservancy groups is run so that they'll still have ducks to shoot.
posted by Vhanudux at 4:34 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


See also: Teddy Roosevelt.
posted by maryr at 4:42 PM on March 28, 2011


This is total anecdata, but I remember reading an article that cast Roxanne Quimby in a bad light as it basically accused her of fleecing Burt out of his fair share of the company profits...not that he really seemed to care (on account of him being an unwavering hippy). After reading this I think she's awesome.

And totally interesting side tangent on the country-conservative double standard. "Individual property rights words words words!" Until you buy up private land simply to...preserve it. So basically a person is entitled to do whatever they want with private land...unless they do nothing with it in.
posted by jnnla at 4:50 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


unless they do nothing with it in.

Aren't there laws some places that require development? Like, you lose title to mineral rights if you don't have plans to exploit them, stuff like that?
posted by Chuckles at 4:52 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


"The idea that hunting and environmentalism are utterly incompatible is a pretty silly one."

Only when you're on the right* side of the insane/reasonable divide. (Warning, extreme wingnuttery ahead.)

*whatever that means.
posted by sneebler at 5:15 PM on March 28, 2011


Nope. No wingnuttery there.
posted by bz at 5:40 PM on March 28, 2011


2N2222 wrote: "Hunters, loggers, and ohv users were outraged that they couldn't trespass on private property?"

In many areas, private property isn't really private (in the sense that one is guilty of trespass for being there) unless it's posted as such or is immediately surrounding a residence. Where I grew up hunting is allowed, with a license, on any land not marked as being not for hunting by the landowner, so long as the hunter is more than 500 yards (or so, I forget the exact figure) from any permanent structure.

Letting people post their property no hunting was a pretty big fight..in the 80s.

I'm sympathetic to both sides of the argument, but in general I'm not against hunting (despite not doing so), so I like that I can legally, not necessarily practically, traipse around just about any undeveloped land in my home state without legal consequences. I can "just pass through" with a tent and a rifle and legally camp for the evening and have a nice meal of local fauna. I probably never will, but there's nothing wrong with reserving the option.

At the same time, I'm glad people who want to post their land can do so, although just as I would be sad if all the animals in the forests were hunted to extinction, I'd be sad if all undeveloped private property were off limits to transient use.
posted by wierdo at 6:26 PM on March 28, 2011


Back in the 70s, my parents owned a little bit of undeveloped land in Maine. One day, we visited during deer hunting season and found hunters on the property. The property was well labeled with "no hunting" and "no trespassing" signs.

The hunters recommended that we stay off the property because there was a chance we might get shot. They didn't mean this in a threatening way, just, well, guns + deer hunting season, you know?

My parents didn't need to call the local police, as they were already there ... as part of the hunting party.
posted by zippy at 8:03 PM on March 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


The idea that hunting and environmentalism conservationism are utterly incompatible is a pretty silly one. Let's not forget that the one of the nation's largest wetlands conservancy groups is run so that they'll still have ducks to shoot.

There is a huge divide between these two ideas of resource management. Conservationism is preservation with resource exploitation in mind, and environmentalism is preservation for preservation's sake. *
posted by schyler523 at 8:38 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had missed the part where Burt's had sold out to Clorox. I guess I should have known when they started turning up everywhere. I'm still glad to hear that one of the founders is doing some good with the money.

Also, Naked Juice is owned by Pepsi and Odwalla by Coca-Cola.
posted by odinsdream at 7:13 AM on March 29, 2011


I was kind of turned off to her methods when I was in Portland and she bought a historic church out from under A Company of Girls, a non-profit organization that had been renting the space. For 10 years prior, the program had offered theater training, homework assistance and self-esteem building to girls between the ages of 8 and 18. The organization had also just received a grant and completed renovated the space for its theater productions.

because I can't link to an anchor and the article is way down the page, I'm just copying it here from the Bollard 2007:
"News earlier this month that Burt's Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby is buying the old St. Angars Church in Bayside and evicting A Company of Girls, the non-profit theater group, set tongues wagging around town.

Some wondered how Quimby – who's warmed liberal hearts by buying and preserving huge areas of Maine woodland – could be so cold-hearted as to evict the struggling arts program.

Others wondered how the building's owner, the non-profit People's Regional Opportunity Program (PROP), could do the same to a fellow non-profit by selling the community performance space A Company of Girls is leasing. (That answer's easy: PROP needed the cash for other programs.)

Still others wondered what other Portland properties Quimby had snatched up, and whether non-profits occupying those spaces would also be sent packing.

Quimby's been a bit cagey about the whole thing. She has not responded to The Bollard's request for comment.

In an e-mail to the Portland Press Herald, she confirmed her pending purchase of the Mayo Street church, and said she intends to convert it into an artist studio, art gallery and private residence. "As an artist, I enjoy preserving and enhancing [historic buildings] to keep them relevant and functioning in the modern world," she wrote to the daily.

The paper noted that Quimby's bought other buildings in town, but was apparently unable to get her to identify them.

Public records show that one of Quimby's companies, Seaside Partners – described in a recent Business Week article as "a real estate development firm that renovates and sells high-end properties in Portland, Me., and Palm Beach, Fla." – owns four other properties here. All are private residences, three tony homes and a condo, in the West End and downtown.

The daily reports that PROP listed the church for $350,000 and Quimby bought it for $255,000 – about $12,000 less than its tax-assessed value."
posted by sulphur at 10:11 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, the church sale sure looks bad, but what would have happened if Quimby hadn't come in? PROPS needed cash and wanted to sell; at the below-asking price, it sounds like they didn't have a stampede of buyers. However, in another story ...

Roxanne Quimby, landlord:

"Quimby's practice often involved ending the leases and burning the camps to the ground after the owner had a chance to remove as much personal property as possible."

The article continues:

"She now plans to offer these people first refusal on lots with low interest loans if people qualify based on an income guideline which is yet to be established."
posted by zippy at 11:31 AM on March 29, 2011


And then there's this:

[The] Quimby Colony currently has studios equipped to support artists working in the fields of fashion, costume, textiles, and culinary arts. Artists from any geographic location are invited to apply for a residency at the colony. Most artists stay for periods ranging from 3 weeks to 3 months, depending on their personal flexibility and desires.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:36 PM on March 29, 2011


[A couple comments removed. Please not so much with the freaking gigantic copy paste stuff.]
posted by cortex at 11:19 AM on March 30, 2011


And then there's this ...

Check out the incredible number of grants The Quimby Family Foundation gives to groups that support (1) environmental issues or, (2) the arts.

Recipients:
2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010
posted by ericb at 11:44 AM on March 30, 2011


I'm from Maine.

My beef with her wanting to set up a park is that the National Park Service is not a good neighbor. People up here call park rangers "Smokey The Pig" with good reason- rangers do shit like throw handcuffed people at the ground, breaking their cheekbones, something that happened when I was working in Bar Harbor a couple summers ago.

Put the land in trust indefinitely? Sure. But once you summon the spectre of the National Park Service, they're not going away anytime soon.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:42 PM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


It is amazing that this generosity is seen in such a negative light. If we didn't have people like this, there would be far fewer open spaces to enjoy.

We can't expect any government in the world to provide us with all the space we need or to maintain it to a reasonable level.

Maybe she can donate it to a private conservation organization?
posted by JessJanes at 2:09 PM on April 21, 2011


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