Every month, I hike or ski or camp or enjoy the beach on lands in Maine that have been set aside for the public to enjoy. In my neighborhood alone, I can take the family to Dodge Point in Newcastle, Damariscotta Lake State Park, or the Camden Hills. With a longer drive, I can enjoy favorites like the Bigelow Preserve in Stratton, Nicatous Lake near Burlington, or Cobscook Bay State Park in Whiting. These places have shaped the quality of my life year after year, and I cherish each and every one.
I am in good company. Support for land conservation in Maine is deeply rooted. Governor Percival Baxter had the wisdom to protect the lands around Mount Katahdin. Inspired by their enjoyment of Mount Desert Island, the policies of Presidents Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt helped to create and maintain Acadia National Park. Mainers have protected—through legislation and referendum—hundreds of thousands of public lands. The maintenance of these lands now serves as a management model for states across the country with a productive and balanced focus on wildlife, recreation, and sustainable harvesting that, in turn, helps fund the care of those lands and our state park system.
Community groups have created 96 land trusts across the state. They have thoughtfully negotiated land purchases and donations that now provide thousands of acres that will be enjoyed for generations to come.
Mainers have also recognized the importance of maintaining land for our traditional nature-based industries like fishing, farming, and forestry. Through working easements, private landowners have been able to preserve their current livelihood while protecting that heritage for their descendants and others.
A study conducted in 2012 demonstrated that for every $1 invested in land conservation through the Land for Maine’s Future program, there was a return of $11 to Maine’s economy. LMF land conservation creates jobs and generates tax revenue while also bringing in income via recreational activities and other venues.
Maine people care so much about the importance of land conservation that strong, bi-partisan majorities have passed the Land for Maine’s Future bond year after year in the Legislature and at the voting booth. Our Congressional delegation has also shown strong support for federal funding, such as for the Forest Legacy program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Despite our efforts to date, Maine is still nowhere close to states that are leading land conservation. Many private individuals stand in the wings, seeking ways to conserve special lands and waters for future generations. There is so much more we can do if we stay on track.
It is this longstanding commitment in Maine that makes the current governor’s desire to scuttle future land conservation an aberration – a complete disregard for Maine’s past, present, and especially our state’s future. Please, talk to your legislators today about the value you place on land conservation. Tell them the stories of where you take your family and how much you enjoy these special places. If you are working on conservation projects in your community, share that as well.
We must stand together to show overwhelming support for all of our public lands. I know of no greater gift to leave our children and grandchildren than the very nature of Maine.
by Lisa Pohlmann, NRCM Executive Director
View NRCM’s Explore Maine map to find local Land for Maine’s Future sites or Public Reserved Lands for exploring.