During a 1965 hike with fellow poet Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsburg looked across the panorama of mountains as they stood on Glacier Peak and asked incredulously, “You mean, there’s a senator for all this?” Snyder recalls that he quickly corrected his friend, saying, “There is not a senator for all that.”
Sadly, that is often the case when it comes to advocating for the spotted owl, the Canada lynx, the old-growth trees of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska’s Tongass rainforest and countless watersheds, ecosystems and endangered species that share with us this land we call the United States. Here in Maine, we’ve been
luckier than most in having senators who, more often than not, do advocate for clean air and clean water, preserving the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and pushing for higher mileage standards for cars and trucks.
But in the realm of politics, far-reaching and effective environmental policies rarely happen, if they happen at all, without some serious pushing from those who care about our planet’s long-term ecological health and the needs of other species. For 50 years now that kind of environmental advocacy has been the mission of The Natural Resources Council of Maine.
This Augusta-based environmental organization has been a strong voice in the fight to clean up Maine’s rivers. Its “victories” include the defeat of the proposed Big A Dam on the west branch of the Penobscot River (1984-86) and the establishment of the Land Use Regulation Commission in 1971, followed by the Growth Management Law in 1988. It successfully pushed for Maine’s solid waste and recycling law (1989), the toxics use reduction bill (1990) and helped block a proposed coal-burning plant in Bucksport (1991-93). It joined with other groups to successfully remove, in 1999, the 160-year-old Edwards Dam and thereby restore a free-flowing Kennebec River — an immensely successful river restoration project that benefits alewives, eagles, osprey, sturgeon and all of the communities along that great river.
NRCM may not be exactly the kind of “senator” Snyder had in mind when he ruefully corrected his friend. Yet, its environmental leadership has made our state a better place than it might have been. And it continues to push each of us to be better stewards of Maine’s mountains and rivers, fields and forests, fish and wildlife. Not for ourselves, alone, but for the generations that follow.