Good afternoon Sen. Nutting, Rep. Pieh and Members of the Committee. I am Matt Prindiville, Clean Production Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Cathy Johnson, our North Woods Project Director, unfortunately, could not be here today as she is out of town.
NRCM has been involved in the revision of LURC’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan since the revision process began over four years ago. Over the past four years, LURC has had an extremely thorough and open process for receiving public comments on issues and potential solutions to be addressed in the revised Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
The Commissioners and/or the staff held multiple panel discussions on a variety of topics, met individually with a huge number of groups and individuals who wanted to share their thoughts, conducted eight public workshops across the state in the spring of 2008, sponsored a facilitated stakeholder group which met during the winter and spring of 2009, held three public hearings in the fall of 2009, and provided the opportunity for the public to submit written comments during multiple public comment periods.
The three major issues that NRCM focused on during this revision process included:
- The spread of unplanned development across the jurisdiction;
- The need to provide higher levels of habitat protection in order to truly protect our wildlife and ecological systems; and
- The need to protect opportunities for remote recreation in the North Woods.
On each of these issues, we had a number of specific recommendations for actions we urged LURC to commit to taking. For example, we urged LURC to commit to policies which would:
a) limit the amount of development in the Unorganized Townships, and direct future development out of remote areas of the jurisdiction and into service center towns such as Millinocket, Greenville and Jackman where the property tax revenue is badly needed and the costs of development are much lower;
b) eliminate exemptions which allow dispersed development across the jurisdiction;
c) address the impacts on wildlife from roads used to access development; and
d) ensure that areas prized for primitive recreation are not incrementally destroyed by spreading development and increasing motorized recreational trails.
While LURC was always very respectful of our comments, I am sorry to say that many of our recommendations were not included in the Final Draft you see before you. While several of the issues we identified are included in this draft, the specific solutions have not yet been identified.
Nonetheless, we believe that the draft you have before you takes important and necessary steps to begin addressing the huge changes in the North Woods that have occurred since the last CLUP was adopted and is a reasonable compromise among the many different perspectives that were presented to LURC.
Therefore, after four years of work, we support the plan, and believe it is time for LURC to adopt this plan and move on.
The identification of the specific approaches to resolving these issues is the next piece of work facing LURC. This will undoubtedly involve more workshops, meetings and public hearings. We believe it is time to begin that work. Because before this plan has any significant impact on the ground, LURC will need to adopt new rules which will come back to this Legislature for approval. This plan before you is only the first step.
Thanks you for the opportunity to address you today.