Good afternoon Sen. Rosen, Rep. Flood and members of the Appropriations Committee. My name is Cathy Johnson. I am here today on behalf of the 12,000 members and supporters of the Natural Resources Council of Maine to speak in support of LD 852, An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Support Maine’s Natural Resource-based Economy.
The Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) program is Maine’s primary land conservation program. Since the program was established in 1987, it has protected:
- 532,000 acres (by acres, it is 55% conservation easements, and 45% full fee acquisition);
- more than 15,000 acres of deer wintering areas (deer yards);
- 1,150 miles of shoreline;
- more than 1/4 million acres of working forests;
- 29 working farms;
- 158 miles of snowmobile routes;
- 50 water access sites; and
- 17 working waterfronts (where more than 1,000 fishing families work.)
The LMF program has committed all of its funds (except a small amount of water access funding) and without this bond, there will be no funding available for new projects, no matter how worthy. This bond would enable LMF to continue its excellent work of protecting land.
The bond also provides important funds for capital improvements at Maine’s state parks, and for infrastructure in the forestry, farming, working waterfronts and tourism sectors. To take full advantage of the economic opportunities that conserved lands offer, investment in natural resource-based infrastructure is needed. Maine’s state parks have a backlog of millions of dollars of capital improvements that are needed because maintenance has been deferred for many years.
The bill provides a total of $48 million:
- Funds to LMF – $36 million:
- $28 million for traditional conservation projects;
- $4 million for farmland conservation; and
- $4 million for working waterfront conservation;
- Infrastructure funds – $12 million:
- $4 million to the Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL) to maintain existing State Park infrastructure;
- $2 million to BPL for new tourism recreation infrastructure projects;
- $2 million to the Department of Agriculture for agricultural infrastructure projects;
- $2 million to the Department of Marine Resources for commercial fishing infrastructure projects; and
- $2 million to the Maine Forest Service for forestry infrastructure projects.
The bill also includes provisions directing the Department of Conservation and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to solicit projects to protect deer wintering areas and give those projects extra points in the LMF scoring process.
Maine’s protected lands support several significant sectors of our economy: nature-based tourism, forestry, farming and fishing. They are also important places for recreation and provide public access to the out-of-doors for Maine people. Maine people have historically supported these LMF bonds by more than 60%, even during difficult financial times. They recognize that these lands are crucial for protecting our state’s traditional industries and heritage.
Now is a particularly good time to invest in these industries. Land prices are down from the heights of a few years ago and there are many opportunities for investing in land. Now is the time that our natural resource-based industries really need help. It is important that Maine have funds available for land acquisition so that the State can be at the table when important pieces of land are available for sale.
NRCM strongly urges you to support L.D. 852.
Thank you for your time and consideration of this issue.