Maine has approximately 600,000 acres of Public Reserved Lands in more than 30 separate parcels located across Maine. These lands are enjoyed for their outstanding hiking, camping, birding, fishing, and hunting opportunities. They include the Bigelow Preserve, Kennebec Highlands, Tumbledown, Cutler’s Bold Coast, Donnell Pond, and more.
But Public Reserved Lands are under attack. Since taking office, Governor LePage has had his eye on these lands, with plans to increase timber harvesting to unsustainable levels, needlessly restructure lands management, and siphon off essential funding for unrelated purposes. To date, NRCM has successfully rebuffed the governor’s harmful plans for these forests, but we have good reason to believe that Governor LePage will continue to degrade this important public resource.
Maine’s Public Reserved Lands are managed by the Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL) for multiple uses, including wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation, and sustainable timber harvesting. For the past 40 years, BPL has harvested timber from these forests in a sustainable, even exemplary manner, improving both the quality and the quantity of timber on those lands.
Management of Maine’s Public Reserved Lands is entirely funded by revenues generated from the lands themselves, primarily from timber harvesting. All of the roads, trails, campsites, picnic tables, and other recreational infrastructure, all wildlife habitat and ecological protection activities, and all timber management and harvesting activities on Public Reserved Lands are paid for by the lands themselves. No taxpayer funds are used.
As a result of BPL’s exemplary management, Maine’s Public Reserved Lands include some of the best, largest, and oldest trees in the state. Stands with big, old trees are not only economically valuable, but they provide some of the best remaining habitat in Maine’s forests for those plant, bird, and mammal species that thrive in older forests.
Traditionally, BPL foresters have established harvest levels on Maine’s Public Reserved Lands after an inventory of the timber resource. The inventory was updated in 2012 by an independent consultant and forms the basis for the current sustainable harvest level on Public Reserved Lands. The LePage Administration continues to push to harvest significantly more than the sustainable harvest level and wants to divert funds from those harvests to unrelated purposes. Under current law, no matter how worthy the proposal for the use of those funds, income from harvesting on Public Reserved Lands may not be diverted to unrelated purposes.
Equally important, overharvesting of the Public Reserved Lands would degrade the important wildlife habitat and recreational values of those lands and must not be allowed. Maine’s Public Reserved Lands are part of the legacy that our forbearers have passed on to our generation since the 1820s, and we have an obligation to pass them along to future generations 200 years from now.
NRCM is committed to protecting this legacy and these lands—our Maine Lands. For more information about Maine’s Public Reserved Lands, visit the Bureau of Parks and Lands’ website and search for recreational opportunities on these lands using their search tool.
Banner photo: View from Bigelow. Photo by Pete Didisheim