By Shri A. Verrill and Irit Altman, Special to the BDN
Bangor Daily News op-ed
The Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts are a direct threat to Maine’s environmental resources, economy and the public health of our residents. The president proposed dramatic cuts to nearly every agency working to protect the environment, particularly funding for renewable energy and environmental science programs focused on climate change and air pollution research.
Here in Maine, we would lose about $4 million per year from cuts to the multipurpose and brownfield grants to the state and tribes alone. Other programs that benefit Maine such as the Environmental Education Grants Program, Wells National Estuary Program and the University of Maine Sea Grant Program would be eliminated in the proposed budget.
Casco Bay Estuary Partnership is funded through the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program and provides critical guidance on issues such as nutrient pollution, watershed management, and the protection and restoration of critical fish habitat in Maine’s largest city. The Casco Bay program also helps to direct water quality monitoring programs and develop education and marine stewardship programs.
We must reject the proposed EPA budget cuts to ensure continued funding for the National Estuary Program and allow Casco Bay Estuary Partnership to meet its mission to preserve the ecological integrity of Casco Bay and ensure compatible human uses there.
Maine Sea Grant is another program that provides critical support for research and development on a variety marine issues, including fisheries and aquaculture, renewable energy and conservation. Under the current budget proposal, the entire Maine Sea Grant program is slated for the chopping block.
Undermining conservation doesn’t just hurt wildlife and our natural treasures, it harms local communities, our health and our economy. Slashing funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the EPA is an unprecedented ambush on our oceans, water, air, wildlife and conserved lands and parks.
That’s why Congress must preserve funding for essential conservation and environmental protection efforts to strengthen our economy, create jobs, protect the air we breathe and the water we drink, and preserve our unique natural legacy that is essential to the nation’s future.
Those of us who live in coastal Maine have just experienced a taste of the challenges we will continue to face as a result of a changing climate. For example, coastal flooding becomes more problematic when frigid temperatures cause ice to block flow patterns, in turn preventing melt water from sudden high temperatures from flowing in the natural waterways. Increased precipitation with an alternating freeze-thaw cycle is overwhelming our infrastructure. The proposed budget cuts will speed us off the cliff with life-threatening fossil fuel use and carbon emissions that far exceed our atmospheric capacity to sustain life as we know it.
Our protections against the onslaught of increased 100- and 500-year floods that result from extreme storms are dependent on these climate science programs. NOAA is responsible for supporting our understanding of fish and other species important to maintaining historical, cultural and economic ways of life in coastal communities. The agency also tracks a wide range of weather and climate-related data essential for Northeast coastal communities that depend on downtown business areas vulnerable to sea-level rise.
Maine also receives at least $1.2 million a year from NOAA to run its Sea Grant program, which is helping to grow our knowledge about current and future ocean impacts and train the next generation of scientist and ocean leaders in the state. The organization provides critical funding for research on ocean warming and ocean acidification, critical habitat and aquaculture. Sea Grant also supports young scientists, awarding up to 10 undergraduate scholarships to students at Maine’s colleges and universities each year. These efforts are critical to ensuring the resilience of the state’s coastal and marine ecosystems and economies.
We urge Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, along with our representatives in the House, to oppose the proposed budget cuts and advocate on behalf of Mainers for a clean budget that increases funding for NOAA, EPA and climate science programs and has no anti-science riders.
Shri A. Verrill holds a Master of Science in biology from the University of Southern Maine with expertise in wetland science, coastal and estuarine ecology. She lives in Surry and is a habitat restoration program manager for the Downeast Salmon Federation. Dr. Irit Altman is a marine ecologist who work focuses on impacts of human behaviors on coastal and ocean environments. She is a visiting researcher at Boston University and has lived in Portland for nearly a decade.