NRCM news release
Augusta, ME – The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) has awarded its 2013 NRCM Environmental Awards to an outstanding individual and two groups of activists working to project Maine’s environment. The awards, which are presented at NRCM’s annual meeting, are given each year to people and groups that have made a real difference at the local, regional, or state level protecting the health and beauty of Maine’s environment. This year’s winners are:
• Paul Bisulca of Oxford
For exceptional efforts to reopen the St. Croix River to alewives
Since 1995, important ancestral breeding grounds of the St. Croix River were closed due to a misguided law, resulting in the plummeting of the native alewife population, from millions to less than a thousand a few years ago. NRCM had worked on this issue since 2001, and was excited when a group of Passamaquoddy tribal members committed to restoring the St. Croix alewife to its rightful place in their culture and Maine’s ecology asked Paul to get involved. Paul succeeded in providing tribal members with a strong, unified voice in support of the restoration effort. He also pushed the federal government to fulfill its trust responsibilities to the Passamaquoddy tribe by pressuring Maine to repeal its law. And he worked with Madonna Soctomah, the legislative representative for the Passamaquoddy tribe, to submit a bill in the Maine Legislature to fully open the St. Croix to alewives. NRCM’s watersheds expert, Nick Bennett, worked closely with Paul, and last spring, the bill passed with overwhelming support in both the House and Senate.
The Passamaquoddy call alewives the fish that feeds all. Alewives are an important fish for people to eat, and as bait for Maine’s lobster industry. Eagles, whales, cod, otter, striped bass, halibut, and many other species depend on alewives for food. The restoration of alewives is critical to rebuilding Maine’s once-prosperous groundfishing industry. “Maine people owe Paul a huge debt of gratitude for his tremendous efforts to restore the St. Croix alewife run, which is now destined to become Maine’s largest,” says NRCM Executive Director Lisa Pohlmann. “Paul is well-deserving of our 2013 Environmental Award.”
• Thanks, But No Tank
NRCM People’s Choice Award for exceptional efforts mobilizing and engaging citizens to protect Searsport and surrounding coastal communities from potential harm posed by a proposed LPG tank and terminal
This year, NRCM received 26 nominations from across the state for its People’s Choice Award and Thanks But No Tanks (TBNT) received the most votes. TBNT is a grassroots organization created in response to a 22.7-million gallon, 14-story high, liquefied petroleum gas tank and terminal that had been proposed for Searsport. TBNT is made up of residents and small business owners who live and work in communities around Penobscot Bay and became concerned about the impacts the proposed LPG tank could have on their homes, businesses, communities, and quality of life. TBNT members provided outreach, education, and testimony, sharing their concerns about the safety of the project and possible implications from traffic as well as excessive visual, light, noise, and air pollution. “To NRCM, TBNT represents citizen activism at its best,” says NRCM Executive Director Lisa Pohlmann. “This kind of on-the-ground community group carries considerable sway with decision makers.” The Searsport Planning Board denied the permits required to construct the LPG tank facility, and this was certainly thanks in large part to the extraordinary efforts of TBNT.
• Tar Sands Citizen Groups in Casco, Waterford, Harrison, Otisfield, and South Portland
For their hard work defending against the risks to air, land, and water, by leading community efforts to pass a municipal resolution in opposition to sending tar sands through Maine’s crude oil pipeline
NRCM has been working for several years to stop the disastrous climate and other environmental impacts from tar sands oil. If humankind burns the dirty fuel contained in Canada’s tar sands reserves it has been called “game over” for a healthy climate. The risks to Maine are tremendous, should oil industry giants succeed at getting the OK for tar sands to move through Maine. Perhaps no one is more aware of this than the people who live in the towns along the pipeline route. Currently seven Maine towns along the route of the Portland Montreal Pipeline have passed local resolutions stating their towns’ opposition to sending tar sands through the 63-year-old pipeline. For more than a year residents of Casco, Waterford, Harrison, and Otisfield, worked closely with NRCM staff members and put in long hours to educate themselves and their neighbors, to collect signatures to put resolutions on the town meeting agendas, and to build community awareness and support. “The hard work and dedication of these citizens to protect their hometowns and Sebago Lake—the drinking water for one in seven Mainers—from the threat of tar sands deserves recognition and thanks,” says NRCM Executive Director Lisa Pohlmann. In addition, NRCM recognizes the ongoing, tireless efforts by citizens in South Portland to pass an ordinance that would protect their city, including their working waterfront, from the threats of a dirty tar sands export facility.
“Maine is so fortunate to have citizens and citizens groups like those that we are honoring this year with our Environmental Awards,” says Lisa Pohlmann. “They know what’s at stake and care deeply enough to work hard to protect it. They are truly making a difference for this beautiful state we all call home.”
Natural Resources Council of Maine’s annual meeting of the membership this year took place October 16, 2013, in Portland, and was followed by “A Conversation about Climate.” The event featured a panel of climate experts, including climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University and author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines. Nearly 500 people attended the event, which NRCM organized to educate the public about the threat of climate change and what must be done to address it.