Good afternoon Sen. Jackson, Rep. Dill, and members of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee. My name is Lisa Pohlmann. I am here today on behalf of the 12,000 members and supporters of the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) to speak in opposition to LD 269, An Act to Increase Opportunities on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.
The Allagash Wilderness Waterway (the “Allagash”) is one of Maine’s signature natural areas. It was established by the Maine Legislature in 1966 to preserve and protect the natural scenic beauty and unique character of the Waterway, its surrounding wildlife habitats, and wilderness recreation resources for this generation and all succeeding generations. Today, folks visit the Allagash to enjoy a truly remote wilderness experience. L.D. 269 threatens to diminish this experience and the natural, remote character that distinguishes the Allagash from other Maine rivers.
NRCM opposes LD 269 for five principal reasons:
1. The current 12-person group size limit has been in place since 1974 and is designed to protect the wilderness experience on the Allagash. The size limit was established because groups larger than 12 are noisier and can degrade the wilderness experience of other users on the Allagash, both on and off the water.
2. Campsites along the Allagash are not designed to accommodate groups of 24, which means that vegetation would be trampled by large groups trying to find tent sites. Many campsites on the Allagash are designed for use by more than one party at a time. Camping in a two- or three-group site alongside a group of 24 would not be a wilderness experience.
3. The newest Allagash Wilderness Waterway Management Plan, adopted in 2012 by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry with broad support, specifically retains the 12-person group size limit in a continued effort to retain the wilderness character of the area.
4. Despite the title of this bill, “to increase opportunities on the Allagash,” this bill actually would not increase opportunities. Groups larger than 12 currently can paddle the Allagash; they simply have to divide into two groups of less than 12, paddle separately, and stay in separate campsites.
5. The national trend is to lower the size of groups allowed in remote recreation destinations in order to enhance the wilderness experience. For example, groups in the Adirondacks are limited to eight in some sensitive areas, and groups in the White Mountain National Forest are limited to ten in certain areas. L.D. 269 would move in the opposite direction, degrading the experience that is the reason why people around the world travel to Maine to paddle the Allagash.
Increasing the group size limit on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway from 12 to 24 persons will drastically diminish the wilderness experience and remote character of the area. We urge you to protect the Allagash and vote — Ought Not to Pass’s on LD 269.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.