Good afternoon Sen. Edgecomb, Rep. Hickman, and members of the Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committee. My name is Eliza Donoghue. I am here today on behalf of the 16,000 members and supporters of the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) to speak in support of LD 866, An Act to Ensure Efficiency and Safety in the Bureau of Forestry.
NRCM continues to have significant concerns about the 2016/17 Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Biennial Budget The budget would dramatically cut the number of Forest Rangers in our state and strip law enforcement authority from the remaining Rangers. We believe that Senator Burns’ bill, in coordination with our recommendations regarding the budget, addresses our concerns.
Maine Forest Rangers enforce many important environmental laws that protect our forests and waters. They are the boots on the ground, inspecting timber harvests for compliance with the Forest Practices Act and water quality standards. In 2014, Forest Rangers performed more than 5,000 compliance inspections. This bill calls for 48 Rangers total that can enforce forestry laws. This is a great start, but we recommend increasing that number to 55, which we have been told is the right number to perform compliance inspections along with the other Ranger responsibilities. We also recommend that Ranger support staff, including pilots and fire prevention specialists, retain their law enforcement capacity.
Without a robust Ranger force, capable of enforcing forestry laws, Maine’s woods and waters would not be adequately protected, and illegal timber harvests and polluted lakes, rivers, and streams would result. We urge the Committee to vote Ought to Pass on LD 866, with our recommend changes.