Return to Content

Roxanne Quimby | Controversy in Maine's North Woods

Roxanne Quimby | Controversy in Maine’s North Woods
9 votes, 4.00 avg. rating (79% score)

St. Pierre’s father and grandfather worked in the mills and in the woods. “People thought this land was like a permanent institution, like the U.S. government,” he says. “They thought it was going to be there forever and always be the same. Well, no matter what happens, that is not the case.”Roxanne was by then surely the most unorthodox CEO in America. In her corporate headquarters in North Carolina, she conducted herself in the spirit of who she had been in her hippie days. Dogs and children were welcome in the workplace. She kept her desk in the art department, making herself available to any of her 300 employees. She never advertised Burt’s Bees.

“I always felt it was much more important what people said about us than what we said about ourselves,” she says of the product that sold mostly by word of mouth. Roxanne found that one key to the success of her products was the process of discovery: “Once [the consumer] found Burt’s Bees, they felt like it was theirs, it became personal. They put their flag in, as if to say, This is mine, I discovered it! And they became really loyal.”

Burt accompanied Roxanne to North Carolina but lasted only two months. And so Roxanne bought out his share of the business, and he returned to his converted turkey coop in Maine, where he still lives, with an abandoned beehive in the front yard, goldenrod growing high around it.

In 2003, having grown the business to a phenomenal $60 million a year, Roxanne Quimby sold Burt’s Bees to AEA, a New York investment company, for $141 million, but retained 20 percent ownership. Not exactly overnight but in the comfort of time, Roxanne Quimby, she of the long skirts and wood-heated spaces, had become a vastly wealthy woman: “At that point, I said to myself, ‘Now what, Roxanne? You’re only in your fifties and you’ve got another 20 years of life on this earth. What do you want to do?'”

She went to Hawaii and to Antarctica and all the places she had always wanted to go. She shopped for a home in Palm Beach. She bought six. “I was questing,” she says now.

And then she returned to Maine, where the fight for the North Woods was on. She came to realize that “money itself is totally worthless. You can’t eat it. You can’t cover yourself up with it at night and stay warm. Money is only what it does, and so I was trying to find the most meaningful thing to do with it that I can.”

And so, establishing a nonprofit foundation called Elliotsville Plantation, she began to buy up the North Woods.

Maps spread before her on the long table, Roxanne Quimby draws red outlines onto a map of northern Maine. She is formidable, tall and imposing, dressed in black, her long dark hair hanging loose. “Everything in red is mine,” she says.

On the map, Baxter State Park cuts a clean, elongated block right in the center of the big, ragged, cranial head of the state of Maine. Baxter State Park is the creation of Percival P. Baxter, who served as Maine’s governor for only four years (1921-1925), during which time he tried and failed to make Mount Katahdin, which he regarded as the state’s crowning glory, a state park. Despite that failure, “Mr. Maine,” as he was sometimes known, never lost sight of that goal.

Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Tags:
Yankee Magazine Advertising

Bring New England Home
plus, get the Tablet Edition FREE!

In this issue: Winter in Vermont

  • Warm Up to Perfect Comfort Food
  • Keeping Timeless Crafts Alive
  • A Town That Loves Covered Bridges and Artists
Subscribe Today and Save 44%

18 Responses to Roxanne Quimby | Controversy in Maine’s North Woods

  1. Beth Dorton March 7, 2008 at 2:58 am #

    Contention over how to assure the ongoing existence of wild places should not prevent people with vision and foresight from taking necessary steps to protect what’s left of our few remaining living forests. Maine is unique in the contiguous states in having that much relatively unscathed land left to argue over. When our family sets out to go hiking, we want wilderness, we don’t want to hear motors, we don’t want to smell exhaust. We want to see vibrant, complete ecosystems and the living things that can only exist there. Thanks to Roxanne Quimby and RESTORE, very possibly our descendants will still know what that’s like.

  2. Brian Miville March 7, 2008 at 8:02 pm #

    This is an interesting debate and both sides have merit. But one thing I think is being overlooked that would help BOTH sides come to agreement much quicker. That is to designate the land a National Forest instead of Park. The White Mountains are a supreme example of a National Forest at work. Sustainable, selective logging helps support the local workbase. Snowmobiling, hunting, fishing and hiking are also a big part of the National Forests motto of “Land of many uses”. There is a balance between nature (in the White Mountains there are Federally designated Wildernesses which protect the forest from human development of any kind) and Current-Use that can be reached if both sides are willing to give and take to come to an agreement.

  3. Pete Pete March 12, 2008 at 6:18 am #

    Why would I want to pay for areas in maine that I can not visit to hunt or fish? Now we can tax the owners and regulate there use of the land. How can people who have second homes around moosehead tell others they can’t build there. Makes no sense, good enough for them to develop the land for themselfs, but not for people now. The Maine North Woods is not park worthy. It is not anywhere near a yellowstone, or grand caynon. It is working forest. The State can regulate development in curtain areas forever. I just don’t see the spectacular volcanic areas or amazing caynons. It has nice lakes and small mountains. The Federal government will never want to spend the money for a park like that. You need amazing vistas and views. Katadin has some, but other areas around the north woods just aren’t spectacular to see. It is fun to camp and fish and hunt but agian it is no Denali. I love the area but I would hate to see it not get developed around moosehead and see the town of greenville disapear. I like to see resorts and industry come back and see more people spend time in the area and money.

  4. Alaine Winters March 13, 2008 at 4:27 pm #

    I guess I’m not as enthusiastic as others posting here. I respect Ms. Quimby for what she has accomplished, but I’m not convinced that a national park is in Maine’s best interest. I’m also impressed by the amount of land that will be permanently conserved under Plum Creek;s plan, roughly 400,000 acres, 95% of the plan area. What should we say to the people who live and work here? What happens to the forestry supply. Forestry jobs pay well and make up a huge portion of our state’s GDP, with all the federal cuts for social programs, a weakening dollar, the need for renewable energy, one more national park seems like a luxury we simply can’t afford…what if the government wanted your back yard?

  5. Tom Condon March 21, 2008 at 7:05 pm #

    For many years I worked as a canoe guide on the West Branch of the Penobscot with the Boy Scouts. This experience led me to a career with the US Forest Service and National Park Service. I believe the North Woods would be a perfect addition to the NP system. The rivers and mountains offer a wilderness experience within easy reach of millions of Americans. There are so few place left in the east that offer the serenity and unspoiled beauty of the North Woods. I still belong to the scouts. We take these young men (and women) to some wonderful places. We visit the Smokies and the Rockies. We canoe the entire Connecticut River. But it is in Maine, along the Penobscot, that we get our truest sense of wilderness. National Park status would raise the awareness of the American public to this vast resource. I hope that the people of Maine will see beyond the quick bucks of vacation home development and preserve this land for future generations.

  6. Robert Matthews March 26, 2008 at 10:00 pm #

    I have been a logger in Northern Maine for over 30 yrs. That said, I have little faith in industrial forestry’s ability to sustain, let alone improve, the economies of the local communities. There is also little evidence that the overall health and welfare of the forest is of any real concern.
    I do, however, believe that there is something inherently beautiful about a local culture built around the natural resources that surround it. This way of life is severely threatened. It is threatened by the Roxanne Quimbys, the Plum Creeks, the fact that land values are determined by out of state markets, the forest industry’s focus on consuming the trees rather than managing the forests,ect. ect.. Outside this complex web of control and consumption there are thousands of individuals whose connection to the land has been at best marginalized, at worst ignored. We (with permission and/or legal right) hunt, fish, trap, canoe, hike, camp, x-country ski, snowshoe, snowsled, ride 4-wheelers, pick fiddleheads, cut firewood, leaf peep, and in general sit around with our chin in our hands thanking God for the opportunity to just be here.
    There was a time when I thought that my passion, my love, my profound appreciation for what surrounded me (ie. what I had the right to reach out and touch on any given day) was payment enough to insure that I would not be excluded. I no longer believe this to be true and it saddens me beyond words. More for my children than for me.
    Yet there is hope. If my children can become obscenely rich, buy 10’s of thousands of acres in the North Woods, and invoke in perpetuity my personal agenda on all who would wander there then I guess that’s OK.

  7. bill melucci March 30, 2008 at 12:36 am #

    I think when God created Maine he surely wanted people to be able to enjoy all parts Downeast the North Woods, Deer Isle and MDI. But I am sure he wasnt planning on some greedy or self aggrandising CEO to charge the average joe 10 bucks to see it, swim in it or breathe it’s air. A WISE man once told me:

    IT IS EASIER FOR A CAMEL TO PASS THRU THE EYE OF A NEEDLE….
    THAN FOR A RICH MAN TO GET INTO HEAVEN!!

    TRYING TO BUY REMEMBERANCE IS SHAMEFULL
    ONE SHOULD BE THOUGHT OF ON THEIR MERIT(S), ALONE.

  8. John Cubberly March 31, 2008 at 1:14 pm #

    I’ll be happy to pay ten bucks for some clean air and water.

    Just donated to RESTORE and I wish success to Roxanne and her project.

    • Earlthepearl November 4, 2014 at 7:33 pm #

      Well someones got to save the land.

  9. Ginny Ward April 7, 2008 at 9:44 am #

    Wouldn’t it be ironic if Roxanne Quimby’s ancestors were from Central Maine, where the lumber business thrived a generation ago?! I would love to know if the Quimby Veneer Mill in Bingham was owned and operated by her ancestors! She is not My hero! She takes pride in her “poor” beginnings (like most wealthy folks do). Her early hardships in Central Maine were much like the hardships of all Central Mainers, Downeasters and Northern Mainers. I would love to hear the REAL stories of Ms. Quimby during her early endeavors in the woods of Maine. These stories would need to come from neighbors and townspeople who observed her and had daily interactions with her. Her “uniqueness” comes from her wealth and riches, not from the fact that she lived in a way that hundreds of other Maine people have lived for generations. Any “uniqueness” in that area, would only be because she was not accustomed to the lifestyle of living in the Maine woods. Did she get town assistance? Did she get financial help from her Daddy? Did she get a welfare check from the State of Maine? Was she considerate of her neighbors and the community? Did she always have “complaints” about how the towns and State were run? Did she grow “pot”? Did she sell it? (Most hippies did) Did she pay taxes? Did she show respect for the generations of Mainers who were hardworking, mostly unskilled —- just doing what they had to do to make a living? Or was she, even then, looking down upon us all, from her “priviliged upbringing”, so engrossed in her own interests, that she was “blind” to the realities of the real Maine and it’s people?

  10. Mark of Millinocket June 25, 2008 at 5:22 pm #

    Roxanne, you have really lost sight of Millinocket and let down those that stuck up for you,,,, and no, I?m not one of those fools that thought you?d change.

    .

  11. Garnett Robinson January 27, 2010 at 12:17 pm #

    Having grown up in Maine and knowing of Burt’s backlandish ways from back in his days in Dexter before his move to Parkman, I can’t help but respect the foresight that Roxanne had in growing his Burt’s Bee Business (now hers) to where it is today. I also believe that wild places are needed such as Baxter Park. That said I find it is very hard to put a positive spin on what Roxanne Quimby has accomplished and is now doing for/to the average Mainer today. She took a Maine business that employed Mainers in a part of Maine where jobs are few, that also produced revenue and taxes to help the local economy (property taxes) and state economy (state corporate and individual income taxes) and had many positive spinoff affects with other local businesses and moved it out of State for personal gain (which I still respect) as the owner of my own business. That said, she now is back in Maine purchasing land at top dollar but benefitting from reduced taxes because this land is in the Current Use Program of Tree Growth or she is placing it in Open Space and is being run as a non-profit corporation. Either way she is paying pennies on the dollar for property taxes and avoiding other taxes (not contributing her fair share) and now changing the land uses which have beneffitted many Mainers for generations in a part of the State where other jobs are scarce. Local loggers, truckdrivers, foresters, hunting/fishing guides and the myriad of spinoff businesses (Truck and Equipment dealers, etc.) are finding themselves being displaced and possibly unemployed by her tremendous wealth. She may be a hero to many from Away who have visions of Northern Maine becoming a Park where the wealthy from other States and Southern Maine can recreate but she is anything but a hero to the average Mainer living in these areas (many for generations) who are being displaced so that she can feed her ego instead of finding a way to help poor Mainer’s feed their families.

  12. Garnett Robinson January 27, 2010 at 12:17 pm #

    Having grown up in Maine and knowing of Burt’s backlandish ways from back in his days in Dexter before his move to Parkman, I can’t help but respect the foresight that Roxanne had in growing his Burt’s Bee Business (now hers) to where it is today. I also believe that wild places are needed such as Baxter Park. That said I find it is very hard to put a positive spin on what Roxanne Quimby has accomplished and is now doing for/to the average Mainer today. She took a Maine business that employed Mainers in a part of Maine where jobs are few, that also produced revenue and taxes to help the local economy (property taxes) and state economy (state corporate and individual income taxes) and had many positive spinoff affects with other local businesses and moved it out of State for personal gain (which I still respect) as the owner of my own business. That said, she now is back in Maine purchasing land at top dollar but benefitting from reduced taxes because this land is in the Current Use Program of Tree Growth or she is placing it in Open Space and is being run as a non-profit corporation. Either way she is paying pennies on the dollar for property taxes and avoiding other taxes (not contributing her fair share) and now changing the land uses which have beneffitted many Mainers for generations in a part of the State where other jobs are scarce. Local loggers, truckdrivers, foresters, hunting/fishing guides and the myriad of spinoff businesses (Truck and Equipment dealers, etc.) are finding themselves being displaced and possibly unemployed by her tremendous wealth. She may be a hero to many from Away who have visions of Northern Maine becoming a Park where the wealthy from other States and Southern Maine can recreate but she is anything but a hero to the average Mainer living in these areas (many for generations) who are being displaced so that she can feed her ego instead of finding a way to help poor Mainer’s feed their families.

  13. Joey May 15, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    roxanne,Why would you put a gate on your roads after telling the people you wouldn’t? Now I can’t go in and get fiddleheads in my favorite spot and most people love picking them and the old folks really look forward to an free meal when it comes to the Lords plants. please remove them for the harvest atlease please

  14. Frank Anderson July 26, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    The families who have been living in Northern Maine for hundreds of years are now feeling some of the pain that their ancestors inflicted on the Native Americans who lived there for thousands of years.

    Of course, the great-great-etc-grandfathers of today’s white Northern Mainers killed most of the natives, and penned the survivors up on Indian Island, or other outposts with marginal resources.

    Funny to hear them complaining about losing their snowmobile trails now that karma is coming back around.

    Also funny that the New World Order isn’t really much better than the old one, the poor white Mainers are going to have to move someplace else too, or die the new version of death, the economic one.

    In the eyes of the New World Order you could say they and their grandparents were lucky to live the “good life” in Northern Maine as long as they did. Thanks to the corporations who sold out as soon as profits dwindled.

    Things aren’t going in a good direction. Then again, they really never did since industrialization began. Something needs to change.

  15. Harold April 5, 2014 at 1:19 am #

    So is she buying the land to build her own mansions and stuff and basically monetize it herself or is she buying the land to prevent it from ever being developed into resorts and stuff?

    There are many celebrities buying thousands of acres of land, building ski resorts and hotels etc. If she’s building a park, what’s the problem? Who cares if you can’t log there anymore? It’s not your land anymore. I disagree with closing trails though. I mean if I was riding my bike through a trail for years and someone bought the land and closed it, I’d be mad too. Leave the area open to hike, ride bikes, enjoy the scenery, take photos, go camping etc.

  16. L De Voe September 9, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

    I live not too far from Quimby’s land off of route 11 and 212. I am astounded by the amount of logging that is done in this area. Most parcels have only a cosmetic strip of trees in the front of the gutted lands. What is considered conservation and selective foresting leaves a lot to be desired. I have seen where loggers take their skip loaders and just bulldoze over the trees to get to their prize. I know were my property is located most adjacent properties have been logged out less than every 15 years The prizes, the harvested trees are getting smaller and smaller and the competition to log out areas more intense.

    We had a logger come up to our door asking if we wanted to sell off our timber when we said no we are not into that, he actually was visibly mad. It is starting to look like a bad poodle cut up here on Dudley Ridge all the surrounding properties are being cut! I know this has been Northern Mainers way of life but when it gets to the point you have connecting swaths of land over logged and re logged every 15 years, with slash left behind and little to no old forest growth and the new growth is sucker growth from the hard woods, that is poor conservation!

    The way I see it with lots being logged out more frequently with less and less time for regrowth with little to no old growth trees left, the loggers will kill the goose that laid the golden egg ! I can see why Quimby wants to put her property into conservation by turning it into a National Park. I have seen both sides and truly understand, anyway it is her land if they the loggers & Northern Mainer natives wanted it so bad then they should have bought it or the loggers should have formed a corporation to have bought it.

  17. L De Voe September 9, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

    I live not too far from Quimby’s land off of route 11 and 212. I am astounded by the amount of logging that is done in this area. Most parcels have only a cosmetic strip of trees in the front of the gutted lands. What is considered conservation and selective foresting leaves a lot to be desired. I have seen where loggers take their skip loaders and just bulldoze over the trees to get to their prize. I know where my property is located most adjacent properties have been logged out less than every 15 years The prizes, the harvested trees are getting smaller and smaller and the competition to log out areas more intense.

    We had a logger come up to our door asking if we wanted to sell off our timber when we said no we are not into that, he actually was visibly mad. It is starting to look like a bad poodle cut up here on Dudley Ridge all the surrounding properties are being cut! I know this has been Northern Mainers way of life but when it gets to the point you have connecting swaths of land over logged and re logged every 15 years, with slash left behind and little to no old forest growth and the new growth is sucker growth from the hard woods, that is poor conservation!

    The way I see it with lots being logged out more frequently with less and less time for regrowth with little to no old growth trees left, the loggers will kill the goose that laid the golden egg ! I can see why Quimby wants to put her property into conservation by turning it into a National Park. I have seen both sides and truly understand, anyway it is her land if they the loggers & Northern Mainer natives wanted it so bad then they should have bought it or the loggers should have formed a corporation to have bought it.

Leave a Reply

We reserve the right to remove or edit comments that are offensive or disrespectful to our readers and/or writers, cannot be verified, lack clarity, or contain profanity. Your comments may be republished by Yankee Magazine across multiple platforms.

Register Sign In

©2013, Yankee Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Yankee Publishing Inc., | P.O. Box 520, Dublin, NH 03444 | (603) 563-8111