Thanks to the Biddeford Saco OOB Courier for running my letter to the editor on the important matter of Land for Maine’s Future. Here is the full text in case you do not have access to it:
Imagine pulling up to a hunting spot you’ve enjoyed since childhood and finding a gated kingdom lot. Or maybe fly fishing is your thing, and access to the streams you fished with your grandfather has been lost.
It’s not hard to envision the disappearance of these special Maine places. Luxury subdivisions pop up where farmers and loggers once earned their living. Working waterfronts shrink. Ocean views are sold off to the highest bidder.
For me, I’ve always aspired to become a registered Maine Guide. I’m not, but getting that certification is something I hope to do one day. While there’s still time, I guess – before the covers I love to hunt become gated developments.
We do have in this state a way to preserve lands for public use. It’s called Land for Maine’s Future. It helps support sustainable forestry and our loggers who work so hard to harvest carefully so the resource will be there in the future. It conserves land for all of our use. But this governor is jeopardizing these efforts. He’s using conservation bonds as a bargaining chip to try to open public lands to rampant timber harvesting. Nearly $6.5 million of voter approved bonds, which hundreds of thousands of us voted for, are in danger of expiring. Thirty projects are at risk, including the Central Maine Sportsman’s access project in Embden, Burnham, Detroit, Cambridge and Ripley. This is Maine’s No. 1 deer tagging area and includes public boat launches at two remote ponds that are otherwise 100 percent private. Without this program, you can’t get your ice fishing shack on these ponds and neither can I. I just do not see how you can be against moving this project forward. It frustrates me to no end.
It frustrates me because Land for Maine’s Future is Maine’s most successful and important land conservation program – you know that providing access for those who can’t afford to buy land and privatize it for their own exclusive use is what it does. In fact, since its establishment in 1987, Land for Maine’s Future has conserved more than 560,000 acres of conservation and recreation lands. Because of the program, those areas available to the public for activities that include hiking, fishing, snowmobiling and bird watching – areas that may well include your favorite hunting cover. Those conservation and recreation lands protected through Land for Maine’s Future benefit everyone.
There’s an important economic story here too. These lands support jobs, whether we’re talking about huts and trails, Maine sporting camps jobs, clammers and lobstermen who benefit from working waterfronts or farmers who benefit from farmland conservation. These are important jobs for our economy. They’re jobs at pulp mills or logging companies that need working forests. Now, you might hear that these projects take lands off the property tax rolls. But actually, Land for Maine’s Future protected lands include more than 300,000 acres of commercial forestland, 37 farms and more than two dozen working waterfronts. I bet you know somebody who works in one of these places – I sure as heck do. I bet they’re nervous – I sure as heck am too.
I’m nervous because despite all the program has going for it, it suffered a major setback last week when the Legislature was unable to override the governor’s veto of a bill that would have asked him to respect the will of the voters and release these bonds. That veto override fell short by just five votes – all because this governor forced members of his party to switch so he can continue to ignore the will of the voters.
Fortunately, this is not the end of this story.
We’re not going to give up on Land for Maine’s Future or the conservation and economic opportunities it provides.
We’re not going to give up on good governance.
We’re not going to stop fighting for the voters who told us – loud and clear – that they want to protectMaine land.
That’s why we in the Legislature passed a second, even more focused bill that addresses the bonds. It will require this governor to do the right thing – we’re not giving up and we need your support.
We’re in it for the long haul if that’s what it takes. It’s too important to do otherwise. We owe it to our children and grandchildren, and we owe it to our wild lands and wildlife, we owe it to our loggers, sporting camp owners, lobstermen and fishermen.
Rep. Martin Grohman (D-Biddeford) District 12