Every month, we highlight news stories and opinion pieces related to Maine’s air, land, water, and wildlife. We update News & Noteworthy weekly with the latest news related to the nature of Maine, including the work of staff at the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
The National Wildlife Federation honored Greg LeClair this week with its National Conservation Young Leader Award. NRCM folks may recognize Greg’s name because he is the founder of Maine Big Night, protecting amphibians from being harmed as they cross Maine’s roads. Greg was also one of six recipients of NRCM Rising’s 2022 Brookie Awards. Read more about Greg and his award from NRCM. Congratulations for this well-deserved recognition, Greg!
Some good news out of the State House this week: Governor Mills signed into law a bill that will allow Maine to offer rebates to people wanting to purchase electric bikes. Learn more from Maine Public.
NRCM supports LD 1986, which would help Maine continue on our path to a clean energy future. Read more about this bill and why it’s good for Maine. Another bill, LD 1895, supports offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine. The Portland Press Herald editorial board supports this bill, and so does NRCM.
Residents of the town of Harrison can save money on new heat pumps thanks to an initiative started by Andrea and Michael Dunn. Through a bulk purchase program, residents can save money on top of the rebates already available for heat pumps. Learn more and see if your town can do something like this to save you and your neighbors money and reduce climate impacts.
NRCM and others are working to get a bill (LD 1895) passed that would help bring the benefits of offshore wind to Maine, including good-paying jobs and tremendous progress toward Maine’s climate goals. Read this op-ed in support of LD 1895 from a recent Bangor Daily News.
NRCM Senior Advocate Rebecca Schultz wrote an op-ed that appears in today’s Bangor Daily News about the success of solar in Maine, what still needs to be done, and how to proceed in reducing our state’s dependence on fossil fuels.
How are some Maine restaurants reducing food waste and becoming more sustainable? Read this Portland Press Herald article, which quotes NRCM Sustainable Maine Director Sarah Nichols.
Here is a great Franklin Journal piece about the return of the Sandy River Festival in Strong. This festival was co-sponsored by the Natural Resources Council of Maine, with our Regional Outreach Coordinator Marc Edwards playing a huge part in bringing back this beloved event. A little rain didn’t stop the fly tying, log rolling, singing, and storytelling that made this event one to remember!
Some big news out of the Maine Legislature today is that last night, a bill to jumpstart offshore wind in Maine passed out of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. NRCM and many others have been working on this priority bill this session — you can read more from this morning’s news release.
Another priority for us this session has been passing a bill to modernize and make more efficient Maine’s 45-year-old Bottle Bill, our state’s most successful litter prevention and recycling program. The Environment and Natural Resources Committee voted that bill out of committee with a unanimous “Ought to Pass as Amended” vote. This is great news as the bill now heads to the full House and Senate for votes.
Let’s just keep going with the good news: Governor Janet Mills announced that thousands of acres of land will be protected thanks to Land for Maine’s Future funding. Nine projects that range from acreage near the Appalachian Trail in Franklin County to trails protections in Wells and habitat protection for the New England cottontail will receive LMF funds. Read more from the Portland Press Herald.
In the “not good news” category, some Maine bird species are declining in numbers due in some part to climate change. Governor Mills signed a bill into law that will add five species to the endangered or threatened species list so that they can receive further protections. Dr. Jeff Wells testified in support of this bill. Jeff is one of the authors of NRCM’s monthly Birding with Jeff & Allison blog.
The American Lung Association recently released a report saying that a switch to zero-emission cars could save up to 330 lives in Maine by 2050. That change would also prevent more than 4,700 asthma attacks in Maine and more than 25,000 lost work days due to illness. Learn more in this WMTW news story.
ICYMI: A member of the town of Bridgton’s recycling committee wrote a piece in The Bridgton News about Maine’s new Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging law, which will require manufacturers to pay the costs of recycling their packaging materials. Currently, Maine taxpayers and municipalities are footing those bills.
Thanks to river restoration projects around the state (many in which the Natural Resources Council of Maine was involved) are the reason alewives and other fish are returning in large numbers to waters around the state. Our staff recently visited Benton Falls and saw thousands of alewives and more than two dozen Bald Eagles circling overhead at one point during their visit.
Another group working hard to protect Maine’s rivers is aptly named Maine Rivers! The organization’s executive director Landis Hudson recently wrote an op-ed in the Kennebec Journal about the rebirth of the Kennebec River.
The Legislature will soon be voting on a bill to limit some large aquaculture farms in Maine. A bill to ban oversized projects from being reviewed or considered by the Maine Department of Marine Resources passed out of committee last week. NRCM and other organizations like Frenchman Bay United opposed American Aquafarms, which had been proposed for Frenchman Bay/Mount Desert Island, but that building is now up for sale after the proposal was rejected by Maine regulators.
Here’s an op-ed by Kristina Cannon of Main Street Skowhegan, which appeared in yesterday’s Central Maine newspapers. She and her organization are some of the nearly 300 organizations and towns that support passage of a $30 million Maine Trails Bond during this legislative session.
The Bangor Daily News editorial board recently wrote in support of the proposed $30 million Maine Trails Bond, LD 1156. Read their editorial.
The Daily Bulldog shared a story about the statewide support, from a wide variety of businesses, towns, land trusts, and organizations, of the Maine Trails Bond.
A new visitor center is being built at Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, with private funds paying for the project. The center will tell the story of the area through the eyes of the Wabanaki people. The Portland Press Herald writes, “The…building is already under construction and will formally open to the public next spring. It bears the name ‘Tekαkαpimək’ from the Penobscot Indian language, which translates to ‘as far as one can see.’”
Maine’s bottle and can redemption centers are the heart of the successful Maine Bottle Bill, and they are getting some help thanks to a new bill passed to increase the handling fees they are paid. Now, another bill to modernize our bottle redemption program (LD 1909) is being discussed in Augusta. Read this Bangor Daily News op-ed in support of the bill.
Skowhegan is another step closer to creating a River Park, with a grant they recently received from the State of Maine.
Farther south in Westbrook, the City purchased land along the Presumpscot River to expand public access to the river.
It was announced this week that the US Supreme Court has voted to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate wetlands. Hear from NRCM Federal Policy Advocate Anya Fetcher about what that means for Maine in this Maine Public news story.
Former NRCM Forests & Wildlife Director Cathy Johnson and her work to protect Maine’s environment are featured in Lincoln County News‘ “Characters of the County.”
Some communities, along with the University of Maine and the Penobscot Nation, have started an initiative called Penobscot Climate Action in order to make plans and help with solutions to deal with climate change.
Here is a great News Center Maine story about the robust return of alewives to Maine rivers.
The past two weeks have been incredibly busy for us at the Maine Legislature. Yesterday was a hearing on one of our priority bills—the Offshore Wind Bill (LD 1895). NRCM and other groups testified in strong support of the bill. News Center Maine also reports that the Marine Mammal Commission, NOAA Fisheries, and the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management all say that there is no evidence that whales are dying because of offshore windfarms. And, to learn more about offshore wind, read this piece by CNN, which features all that is going on with offshore wind at the University of Maine.
On Monday of this week, the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee heard testimony from NRCM and others about reforms to modernize Maine’s Bottle Bill. There are ways to streamline and make it easier for redemption centers and others to get these returnable cans and bottles recycled. NRCM testified in strong support of LD 1909.
NRCM and others, including the Frenchman Bay United group, have opposed an aquafarm proposed on Frenchman Bay near Mount Desert Island. Last week, it was announced that the American Aquafarms property has been placed up for auction due to foreclosure.
Mining rules are once again being discussed at the State House, and one bill, LD 1363, proposes some changes to the law, which is the strictest in the United States. NRCM supports this bill with amendments, and NRCM Staff Scientist Nick Bennett explains why in this Maine Monitor news story.
Great news from the western Maine mountains region: two pieces of land at Quill Hill and Perham Stream have been permanently protected (13,000+ acres). Maine Public reports that, “The two properties….are a culturally significant part of Wabanaki traditional territory.”
Have you heard of Furbish’s lousewart? It is a plant that only grows on 140 miles along the St. John River in northern Maine and New Brunswick, Canada. That plant, discovered by Kate Furbish in the late 1800s and added to the endangered list was one of the reasons that the Dickey-Lincoln Dam proposed for that region was denied. NRCM worked for many years to ensure that that project didn’t happen as it would have flooded 88,000 acres of land, including the entire town of Allagash. Now the US Fish and Wildlife Service is recommending that the plant be removed from the endangered list and added to the threatened list.
Late last month, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced a public comment period for offshore wind in an aera off the costs of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. The Maine Legislature will also begin discussing an offshore wind bill (LD 1895) in the coming weeks.
Good news for alewives in the St. Croix River: a grant from the National Fish Passage Program will help modernize the fishway at the Woodland Dam.
The new executive director of the Aroostook Regional Transportation System wants to expand bus service across the County.
Mining and protections for Maine’s environment from mining pollution are being discussed at the Legislature again this year. Read more in this Maine Monitor story, including quotes from NRCM Senior Director of Advocacy Pete Didisheim. NRCM helped Maine to pass the strictest mining law in the US several years ago.
This week, the Senate made its initial vote on LD 134, an emergency bill that would increase the handling fee for returnable cans and bottles, to help keep redemption centers open and people employed at those centers. Learn more about the bill in this piece by News Center Maine. More votes on the bill will be happening next week at the Legislature.
Ben Lucas of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce wrote a recent Bangor Daily News op-ed in support of renewable energy development in northern Maine, and a bill (LD 924) that would help make that happen, with the benefit of adding many good-paying jobs to Maine. NRCM also supports passage of LD 924.
NRCM Advocacy Director Pete Didisheim is quoted in this Maine Public piece about amendments introduced this legislative session to relax Maine’s mining law, the strictest in the country.
Speaking of mining, Wolfden Resources, a Canadian mining company, again missed a submission deadline of their rezoning application to the Land Use Regulation Commission. Many area residents near the proposed project are concerned about harm that could come to their watershed and land.
Good news for drivers of electric vehicles: four additional EV charging stations have been installed in Bangor and Newport. There will be 12 more coming to central and eastern Maine, with 8 installed by the end of Maine, 2 more by the end of the year.
Legislators and others gathered at the Maine State House to announce support for a $30 million Maine Trails Bond, which would support creation and maintenance of trails around the state. The trails would be for hiking, biking, snowmobiling, ATVs, and improve accessibility to trails. NRCM supports this bill and is working with more than 260 organizations, towns, and businesses to get this bill (LD 1156) passed this session.
The EPA announced that Maine will receive more than $60 million in federal funds to update and upgrade drinking water infrastructure.
The Maine House and Senate both voted against a bill that would have repealed Maine’s statewide single-use plastic bag ban. The bill is now dead with no further discussions.
At the Maine Legislature, there are several pieces of legislation suggested related to Maine’s highly successful recycling program known as the Bottle Bill. NRCM is supporting legislation to modernize the bill and support redemption centers in order to keep them open. If you missed our webinar last month, featuring NRCM Sustainable Maine Director Sarah Nichols and other bottle redemption experts, you can watch it on our YouTube channel.
The Environmental Protection Agency recently announced $3 million in funding to help Maine cut climate-changing pollution. That money will go toward updating Maine’s Climate Action Plan, according to the Governor’s Office on Policy Innovation and the Future.
Earlier this week, NRCM and our partners dropped our lawsuit against Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners, the owner of four dams on the Kennebec River that are a threat to the already endangered Atlantic salmon. In their press release, the group said, “We have withdrawn our lawsuit against Brookfield for violating the Endangered Species Act at its four lower Kennebec dams to focus on the FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] process that is currently underway.”
Isabelle Rogers, an organizer with the Sunrise Movement of Franklin County and a member of Maine Youth for Climate Justice wrote an op-ed last week for the Portland Press Herald in opposition to the CMP corridor, which was overwhelmingly voted down during the November 2021 election.
A bill introduced by Senator Russell Black (R-Franklin County) would try to prevent invasive species like northern pike from getting past two dams in eastern Maine.