Good afternoon Senator Vitelli, Representative Dill, and members of the Committee. My name is Cathy Johnson. I am a resident of Alna. I am testifying today on behalf of NRCM’s 16,000 members and supporters in opposition to L.D. 1838.
We oppose this legislation because it undermines the integrity of the public lands trust fund by re-directing funds from management of our public lands to unrelated energy programs. This bill is linked to a broader increased harvesting plan that threatens the multiple public uses and resources of our public lands.
Energy efficiency offers one of the most cost-effective options to lower energy costs in Maine, from cutting electricity costs for our manufacturers to lowering heating bills for homeowners. NRCM strongly supports the energy efficiency programs at Efficiency Maine. NRCM has been one of the most vocal advocates in Maine for effective and well-funded energy efficiency activities over the last decade. However, our opposition to the increased harvesting and funding-diversion plan is just as strong as our support for the program to which this bill would add funding.
Last year we worked with a bipartisan group of legislators to pass overwhelmingly the omnibus energy bill, one of the important features of which was the creation of a new program at Efficiency Maine to lower home heating costs. As a result of that bill and sustained funding from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), homeowners now have access to a great program that helps them invest in insulation, heat pumps, air-sealing, wood pellet stoves and more. That program has sufficient funding to meet demand for the program for the foreseeable future (assuming RGGI funding for the program is not raided, which we must avert.)
So additional money from public lands is not really needed at Efficiency Maine right now. It is needed where it is. The Public Reserved Lands program at the Bureau of Parks and Lands is entirely self-funded. For forty years, BPL has harvested timber on our public lands and used that income to fund timber improvement and harvesting activities, maintain all the infrastructure on the lands including roads, bridges, campsites, and boundary lines, improve wildlife habitat and provide recreational opportunities for Maine people. No taxpayer funds from Maine’s general fund are used for these programs. (Given the state of the general fund, it would probably be wise to keep it that way and maintain this independent funding source for managing those lands.)
While BPL has managed our public lands in an exemplary fashion, there has not been enough money generated to do all of the timber improvement, infrastructure, wildlife and recreation activities that would be in the public interest. There is no unneeded money at BPL that is available for diversion to other purposes.
Even if there were extra funds at BPL, there are also legal restraints on diverting the money from BPL’s Public Reserved Lands fund. Revenue earned as a result of harvesting on Public Reserved Lands is, by law, limited in the purposes to which it can be used. “Under the Articles of Separation by which Maine became a State and which are incorporated as Article X of the Maine Constitution, the public reserved lands were set aside for certain designated purposes.” As stated in the attached letter from the Attorney General, December 15, 1992, funds received from harvesting on Public Reserved Lands are part of a public trust for certain designated purposes. In that way, funds from harvesting on Public Reserved Lands are unlike funds from other state lands which are not subject to a trust obligation. In 1973, the Maine Supreme Court reviewed the purposes for the Public Reserved Lands trust fund and approved those purposes which are set forth in Maine law, 12 MRSA §1847, the purpose section for Maine’s Public Reserved Lands. The purposes set forth in LD 1838 are not consistent with those provisions.
Finally, as you know there has been discussion about significant increases in harvesting on public lands in excess of what is sustainable for the multiple uses of these lands. We are concerned that passing this legislation would give support to those plans, either directly through the message it would send from this committee, or indirectly by putting financial pressure on the harvest levels.
Because it would be illegal to divert funds from the Public Reserved Lands trust and because those funds are already needed and fully utilized by the Bureau of Parks and Lands to carry out their timber, wildlife and recreation programs, we urge you vote Ought Not To Pass on LD 1838.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak.
 Jeff Pidot, Deputy Attorney General, Memorandum, August 5, 1992.