by Nick Bennett, NRCM Staff Scientist
Senator Saviello, Representative Hamper, and Members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee:
LD 341 would exempt a huge number of wetlands in Maine from state regulation. Most Maine lakes have outlet dams that increase lake levels, and these dams also create wetlands around the lakes. Most Maine rivers are dammed, and these dams also have wetlands associated with them. This bill would exempt all of these wetlands from regulation.
The benefits of wetlands to water quality and wildlife are clear. That is why President George H.W. Bush began a policy of “no net loss of wetlands” in 1988. Wetlands filter out polluted runoff, thereby helping to protect the water quality in lakes and rivers. Wetlands help recharge the groundwater that supplies many Maine towns and private wells with drinking water. Wetlands also provide habitat for countless species of birds, mammals, and amphibians. If development is allowed to encroach too closely on Maine’s wetlands, then water quality and the plant and animals that depend on wetland ecosystems to survive, will suffer. So will hunting and fishing and Maine’s tourism industry.
Wildlife-related recreation in Maine brings in more than $1 billion dollars annually. Reducing protections for wetlands will reduce waterfowl numbers, which is a particular concern of mine as an avid duck hunter. I am attaching a DEP document on the economic importance of wildlife-related recreation in Maine in general and the economic importance of waterfowl in particular. We need to protect wetlands to protect our wildlife resources.
LD 341 turns the policy of “no net loss” on its head and would even exempt wetlands created purposefully for mitigation or habitat – with either private or public funds – from protection. LD 341 would also likely result in loss of the parts of wetland regulation that the Army Corps has delegated to Maine.
LD 341 will harm Maine water, Maine wildlife, and our ability to enjoy the outdoors. NRCM urges the Committee to vote ought not to pass on LD 341.