Bipartisan supporters say bond will spur economic growth and conserve natural resources
AUGUSTA — Heralding the economic benefit of conserving our state’s natural resources, Mainers including fishermen, sportsmen, conservationists, and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle called on the Legislature to replenish the Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) program by supporting LD 852, a $5 million bond proposal designed to help fund working waterfronts, farmlands, and forests; wildlife habitat; and special recreation lands across the state.
If passed, Maine voters will have the opportunity to vote on an LMF bond this November. “Conserving Maine’s land and natural resources is an investment in today’s jobs and tomorrow’s prosperity for our children and grandchildren,” said Senator Roger Katz, a Republican from Augusta who sponsored the legislation. “Our natural resources are what set Maine apart — they are our biggest competitive advantage. Preserving and conserving them has got to be a top priority as we develop and grow. This is a value shared by families and businesses across the state.”
LMF has been extremely popular with voters, who have passed bonds in 1987, 1999, 2005, 2007, and 2010 by two-to-one margins. Since its inception, the LMF program has conserved land in each of Maine’s 16 counties, including working farms, commercial fishing waterfronts, timberland, and important tourism and recreation sites. Nearly 200 projects have been completed statewide, ensuring more than 500,000 acres of land remains open to the public for hunting, fishing, hiking, and other outdoor recreation.
“Land for Maine’s Future is an innovative method of conserving wildlife habitat and public access, as well as farming and fishing opportunities,” said Carole Dyer, a hunter from Bowdoinham. “Hunting supports 4,000 jobs, generates $217 million in retail sales, and over $81 million in salaries and wages. Investing in land that supports these activities is what LMF does.”
A recent study by the Trust for Public Land quantifies how these efforts have benefited the state’s long-term economic health in terms of both jobs and revenue. The report found that Maine’s natural resources support at least 62,000 jobs and generate billions in economic value for Maine businesses. It calculated that every $1 invested in land conservation through LMF returned $11 in natural goods and services to the Maine economy.
“This is an investment we’d be foolish to turn down,” stated Representative Jeff McCabe, a Democrat from Skowhegan. “LMF creates important new conservation and economic opportunities through partnerships with landowners, towns, and state agencies. Since it began, the LMF program has leveraged nearly $100 million in local, federal, and private matching funds. LMF is a win-win for Maine communities.”
“We’d all like to leave behind a fully-paid home to our children and grandchildren,” said Dave Ramsey, sportsman and President of the Brownville Snowmobile Club. “But that doesn’t happen overnight. It takes well-planned investing and a long-term commitment. And that’s what LMF is all about. Lawmakers can help us leave an important legacy to our families and communities by voting for the LMF bond and putting it on the ballot in November.”
A continuing economic focus for LMF will be its role in conserving wildlife habitat, including for white-tailed deer, a mainstay of Maine’s rural economy and way of life for at least the past 125 years. In 1996, Maine had 160,000 deer hunters, and they contributed $200 million to the economy of the state. Today there are fewer hunters and far fewer deer to enjoy. “Investment in deer wintering areas today can help restore healthy deer numbers and also benefit countless other wildlife species in the northern half of Maine,” said David Trahan, Executive Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and former Republican Senator from Waldoboro. “LMF guarantees that our outdoor heritage, the very thing that defines our state and makes it special, will be conserved and handed on to future generations.”
The LMF bond would also provide funds to help purchase development rights in order to preserve and protect key properties on the coast that provide access to and support commercial fisheries activities. Melanee Osier-Gilbert, owner of Maine Fresh Lobster Inc. in Bremen, stated, “With six generations of the Osier family firmly attached to commercial fishing from this waterfront property, we believe that the Working Waterfront Access Protection Program not only preserves an important asset for our descendants and their neighbors in the community, but it also helps our present business invest capital into much needed improvements to the wharf and buildings, enhancing the twenty jobs that depend on access across this property.”
Katz added, “We owe it to Maine families and businesses across the state to send them a bond package that includes investments that protect the good jobs and good health that our natural resources provide to all of us. That package should include Land for Maine’s Future. “The record of LMF projects shows it has helped establish and guarantee public access to thousands of acres and dozens of ponds, streams, lakes, and rivers for hunting, fishing, hiking, snowmobiling, biking, camping, and many other recreational pursuits. It has helped protect mountain summits, working forests and farms, salt marshes, and coastal shoreline.
Supporters of LMF cite the following examples of LMF’s positive impact on Maine’s economy and way of life: conserving 25 working farms – supporting family farmers producing dairy, vegetables, meat, and flowers; helping to conserve more than 250,000 acres of working forestland — guaranteeing continued sustainable forest management and public access for hunting, hiking, fishing, and many other uses; working with communities across the state to establish hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails, including critical links in the statewide snowmobile system that would be difficult to replace; protecting more than 1,000 miles of shorefront — guaranteeing access for canoeing, fishing, and boating; protecting coastal sites to ensure clammers and wormers have access to mud flats, ensuring their economic future; serving all Maine citizens and visitors — those who fish, hike, farm, raft, bike, boat, hunt, snowmobile, camp, and picnic; and leveraging nearly $100 million of local, federal, and private matching funds.
The Maine Land Bond Coalition is comprised of more than 350 supporting organizations, including sportsmen, business leaders, citizens, health organizations, conservationists, recreational enthusiasts, and environmentalists.