by Nick Bennett, NRCM staff scientist
Good afternoon Senator Bromley, Representative Smith and members of the committee. My name is Nick Bennett. I am a resident of Hallowell. I am here today to testify on behalf of the 8,000 members and supporters of the Natural Resources Council of Maine in support of L.D. 192 with one significant outstanding concern.
I am basing our testimony on the amendment that was forwarded to me by DECD Deputy Commissioner Jeff Sosnaud this morning.
While we generally support this goals of this legislation, we are concerned because there is no provision in the draft bill we have seen to ensure that the new $2.8 million plus resorts are located near already-developed areas and existing infrastructure such as year-round roads and power lines, rather than in the heart of the North Woods.
We believe that any new developments of this magnitude that are subsidized by taxpayers should be in communities adjacent to the North Woods, areas like Greenville, Jackman, Millinocket, Farmington, Rumford, Presque Island, Ashland, Machias, and Calais. If the lodging and resort developments are spread out in the North Woods, they will draw economic activity away from the communities and they will threaten the value of the very resources visitors come to see: vast undeveloped natural areas, forests teeming with wildlife and pristine shorelines.
Maine’s North Woods are being eroded one house lot at a time. At this point Maine has the largest undeveloped forest east of the Mississippi River, but more than half of the North Woods has changed hands in the last seven years, threatening the stability of the communities and character of the area.
We also believe that rather than giving tax breaks to huge new resorts (described in the bill as 40 beds with private baths, and a minimum investment of $2.8 million,) tax benefits should be given to smaller businesses where the benefit to the economy stays in Maine. We think rural Mainers have the know-how and Yankee ingenuity to build and operate quality lodging and recreation facilities that honor the cultural traditions of the North Woods. And they deserve a helping hand that would help keep the benefits in the area instead of sending them off to out of state developers.
I urge you to consider amending this bill to protect the North Woods from fragmentation and to spare the goose that lays the golden eggs for our recreation industry.