Our priceless wilderness might be up for bid soon because of Gov. LePage’s unceasing obstinacy.
By Martin Grohman
Portland Press Herald op-ed
About the Author Martin Grohman is a first-term Democratic state representative from Biddeford.
BIDDEFORD — I was lucky enough to get a moose permit this year, and I’ve already been scouting in anticipation of a great season.
I’m hoping that the private land I hunt remains available this year and into the future. Maine’s long tradition of public access to private land is something we as hunters treasure and appreciate.
But those lands are under increasing development pressure. I’m sure you’ve seen gates go up and land get posted. All hunters have seen it.
Favorite hunting spots and fly-fishing streams are lost to gated kingdom lots. Luxury subdivisions pop up where farmers and loggers once earned their living. Working waterfronts shrink as ocean views are sold off to the highest bidder.
That’s why we are lucky to have Land for Maine’s Future to preserve these special places for public use. It is our most successful and important land conservation program, providing access for those who can’t afford to buy land and privatize it for their own exclusive use.
Since its establishment in 1987, the Land for Maine’s Future Program has conserved more than 560,000 acres of conservation and recreation lands, 300,000 acres of commercial forestland, 37 farms and more than two dozen working waterfronts.
But our anti-conservation governor is delaying $6.5 million in Land for Maine’s Future bonds that are now in danger of expiring, putting many projects at risk.
I’m as fiscally conservative as you are, but these bonds were approved by voters in 2010, in one of the worst economic times in history, and they’ve long since been budgeted for. We need to get these projects underway and respect the will of Maine voters who overwhelmingly support this program.
Thirty of these projects are really in jeopardy. The Central Maine Sportsman’s Access Project in Embden, Burnham, Detroit, Cambridge and Ripley particularly stands out for me. It’s Maine’s No. 1 deer-tagging area and includes public boat launches at two remote ponds that are otherwise 100 percent private.
Without this program, you can’t get your ice fishing shack on these ponds, and neither can I.
Plus, these public lands support jobs. The hunting community in Maine is a strong one. When we hunt on private land, we ask permission and we take care of it like it was our own. When we hunt on public land, we know we are fortunate and we know that programs like Land for Maine’s Future make it possible.
Our activities have a proven economic impact, with a recent report from the Hunting Works for Maine initiative, showing that hunting in Maine supports nearly 4,000 employees across hundreds of businesses.
Consider also the clammers and lobstermen who benefit from working waterfronts, farmers who benefit from farmland conservation or pulp mills and logging companies that need working forests – all of which typically remain on the property tax rolls without becoming some dot-com billionaire’s playground.
That’s why we need your support for the Release the LMF Bonds bill, L.D. 1454. This bill specifically directs Gov. Le-Page to release bonds for Land for Maine’s Future. We expect to deal with a veto from the governor when we reconvene in January. We’ve already tried once, so we know what can go wrong.
At the end of last session, we had a setback with another bill, sponsored by Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, when six House Republicans switched their votes and effectively killed Land for Maine’s Future funding.
This time, we need to override that anti-conservation veto. If we don’t, that is the end of the Land for Maine’s Future Program.
Even if this governor later decides to begin funding projects, the damage will have been done. His refusal to release voter-approved bonds for a well-established and respected program is making it so unpredictable that landowners will prefer to sell to developers.
That’s how “Over there where that big house is, that’s where I used to hunt” and “My grandfather said there used to be partridge around here” came to be heard so often. That’s how land becomes a luxury subdivision or gated kingdom lot.
I hope you’ll agree that we need to stand with the land.
Here’s how to help. Look over the list of at-risk projects at landformainesfuture.org and tell your state lawmakers that you want those bonds released. Use the hashtag #releasethebonds on social media.
Write letters to the editor. Reach out directly to the governor at 287-3531.
And visit those wild places, possibly for the last time, before the luxury subdivision goes in.