by David A. Sargent
LEWISTON — About three dozen area residents and Bates College students viewed the premiere of a film Wednesday night celebrating the 50-year history of the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
The half-hour production titled “Protecting the Nature of Maine” highlights spectacular views of Maine scenery and wildlife while its narration and interviews enumerate many environmental issues addressed by NRCM. The film will be shown in February on stations of the Maine Public Broadcasting System, and NRCM will distribute DVD copies as membership tools.
Brownie Carson, executive director of the environmental organization for the past 25 years, told the audience at Bates College that many of the issues and projects covered in the film “are still works in progress.”
He pointed out that the polluted condition of the Androscoggin River in the 1950s was the inspiration for Sen. Edmund S. Muskie’s historic work on the Clean Water Act.
“Make no mistake, the Androscoggin is much, much better today,” Carson said.
Another area connection in the film is a segment featuring Adam Lee, president of Lee Auto Mall in Auburn. Lee emphasized his commitment to selling autos with “green” advantages. He is a board member of NRCM.
Bill Houston, NRCM board chairman, told the attendees, “We have done some firsts in the nation.” Among those accomplishments were opening up the Kennebec River to fish runs by demolishing the Edwards Dam and leading the way nationally on control of flame retardants and toxic chemicals.
Carson said NRCM was instrumental in putting evidence into the record that blocked the massive “Big A Dam” proposal on the West Branch of the Penobscot River. The project was spearheaded by Great Northern Paper Co. and was defeated in 1986.
Carson went on to contrast the “Big A” environmental battle more than 20 years ago with today’s situation in Millinocket where that company no longer exists and only one of the two mills still operates there.
“I believe we made the right decision,” he said.
Carson also told the audience that NRCM has often worked to find common ground on issues that are seen to threaten the environment.
NRCM was not in total opposition to plans by Plum Creek Timber Co. to develop thousands of acres around Moosehead Lake, Carson said. The organization worked to direct appropriate development rather than outright prohibition.
NRCM is currently appealing recent decisions related to the Plum Creek project.
Other issues in which NRCM has been active include prohibition of billboards in Maine, enactment of the “bottle bill” requiring deposits, and support of the Land for Maine’s Future program.
The new documentary was produced entirely in Maine and features both aerial and close-up footage of Rockport’s Beech Hill, Mt. Katahdin, Moosehead Lake, Acadia National Park and elsewhere. It also presents numerous interviews with citizens and governmental leaders across the state who comment on their commitment to Maine’s environment.
In one of the interviews, former Gov. Angus King says the environment and natural resources “are our economic ace in the hole.”
The filmmakers, all from Maine, include director Richard Kane (Maine Masters) and scriptwriter Veronica Young (NOVA, National Geographic Channel), with scenic cinematography by Jeff Dobbs, and an original score by Grammy Award-winner Paul Sullivan.
The NRCM film will air at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 6; at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7; and at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 28, on the stations of the Maine Public Broadcasting Network.