Pete Didisheim, Senior Director of Advocacy
Senator Boyle, Representative Welsh, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. My name is Pete Didisheim, I am the Advocacy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and I appreciate this opportunity to testify in support of LD 1427.
We believe this bill would create a valuable forum for increased coordination among Maine’s natural resource agencies. The Resource and Development Council created by LD 1427 would be similar in composition and purpose to an entityâthe Land and Water Resources Councilâthat helped coordinate policy and program development among Maine’s natural resource agencies for two decades, until it was abolished last year as part of the legislation that dismantled the State Planning Office.
NRCM closely followed the Administration’s work to dismantle the State Planning Office, and we believe that entire exercise was a mistake. But that step was taken, the various parts of SPO were terminated or distributed to other agencies, and it seems unlikely that the pieces will be put back together again anytime soon. But termination of the Land and Water Resources Council was one of the smaller casualties of that process that could be reversed, and LD 1427 could be the vehicle for doing so. This bill would restore a valuable forum for discussion, coordination, planning, conflict resolution, and policy development across Maine’s natural resource agencies, as well as the Departments of Transportation and Economic and Community Development.
The Land and Water Resources Council focused on a number of significant policy areas, including:
â¢ Developing a management strategy for Maine’s ground water resources;
â¢ Evaluating state policies for hydropower development;
â¢ Improving computerized management of natural resource information;
â¢ Evaluating management strategies of near shore coastal resources;
â¢ Reviewing incentives to keep land in productive farming, fishing and forestry use;
â¢ Creating an education strategy for public water supply protection;
â¢ Evaluating the effectiveness of Maine’s coastal plan in meeting the state’s public access and working waterfront policy goals;
â¢ Evaluating sources of mercury pollution in Maine and options for phasing out in-state mercury-containing products;
â¢ Evaluating options for reducing coastal storm damage; and
â¢ Creating an action plan for managing invasive aquatic species.
Each of these topics was useful to address through a multi-agency, multi-stakeholder approach, as was provided through the Land and Water Resources Council. Because Maine’s natural resources are such a critical part of our economy and quality of life, careful stewardship of these resources is a high priority for all Maine people and businesses. Maine’s waters, forests, fisheries and wildlifeâand the businesses and recreational activities that depend on these resourcesâdo fit neatly into the precise mission descriptions of our natural resource agencies, which is why coordination across agencies makes so much sense, and why LD 1427 has value.
Some agency officials likely will assert that there is no need to create a new forum for coordinating across agencies, but NRCM believes the stronger argument is that there was no need to abolish the Land and Water Resources Council last year. Again, as someone who followed that entire process very closely, I can attest that there was never any open discussion about what would be lost through repeal of the Land and Water Resources Council. It was simply swept away with SPO’s dismantlement.
I appreciate this opportunity to testify in support of LD 1427 and would be glad to answer any questions that you may have.