By Samuel J. Baldwin
The NRCM, an independent non-profit organization founded in 1959, has over 12,000 members and is Maine’s largest outdoor advocacy group.
Pohlmann, originally from Iowa, has lived in Maine for over 30 years and said her reasons for living here and for working at the NRCM are the same: “I love nature,” she said. “I get a great deal of satisfaction out of outdoor activities.”>/p>
With an extensive background in nonprofit management, Pohlmann was chosen on Jan. 31 to lead NRCM during a time when “we’re facing one of the biggest assaults on Maine’s environment in recent times,” she said.
With many sweeping changes to Maine’s environmental regulations proposed by the LePage administration, Pohlmann said it’s a critical time for environmental advocates to step up.
“Maine has been on the forefront of advancing environmental protection, and we should be proud of that,” Pohlmann said. “We don’t want to go back to the 1950s when rivers were so polluted people couldn’t swim in them.”>/p>
Pohlmann believes she was chosen to lead the NRCM because of her extensive familiarity with the policy issues in Maine, and the need to balance boosting our economy with protecting our environment, she said.
“A lot of Maine businesses rely on a clean environment,” Pohlmann said. She cited fishing, farming and forestry as prime examples, as well as our “$10 billion tourism industry that relies on the brand of a clean environment.”>/p>
“That’s where the job growth is right now,” she said. “We don’t want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.”>/p>
Pohlmann is particularly worried about plans to develop the North Woods.
“The attitude seems to be: ‘Open it up and build whatever you want,'” she said. “That would be incredibly short sighted.”>/p>
She’s concerned by proposals to weaken Maine’s energy efficiency building code standards, weaken shoreland zone protections and to allow the use of BPA – a chemical used in hard plastics that has been linked to a host of developmental issues in children.
At a press conference in February, Gov. Paul LePage dismissed the dangers of the chemical, saying, “the worst case is some women may have little beards.”>/p>
She is concerned by a proposal to repeal the Bottle Bill, which created the $.05 deposit on bottles, redemption centers across the state, and which Pohlmann credits with keeping Maine’s roadsides relatively bottle-free.
“There are 1200 jobs tied into that bill, but its repeal doesn’t create a single job as far as I can see,” Pohlmann said.
In general, Pohlmann sees a discrepancy between what the LePage administration says businesses in Maine want, and what surveys of Maine’s businesses say they want.
“What most businesses were actually coming out and saying was that many processes are too cumbersome – not that laws and restrictions need to be repealed,” Pohlmann said. “The assault on environmental protections is not about jobs, it’s not about the economy.”>/p>
Pohlmann seems excited to face the challenges she said are before the NRCM in coming years, and said it’s “a frankly wonderful position” to be leading such a “deep and experienced staff of policy experts on the front lines of the statehouse. We’re the lead organization lobbying on the environmental front.”>/p>
Without work to maintain and advance environmental protections in Maine, Pohlmann describes a bleak future for the state.
“Roadsides strewn with bottles and cans and increased fragmentation of the North Woods; lakes taken over by invasive species and clam flats closed for pollution exposure,” she said. “This is what we have been able to avoid up until this point.”>/p>