Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Gov. Paul LePage's stubborn obstructionism and refusal to sell Land for Maine's Future bonds stifles the will of the people and jeopardizes critically important conservation and recreation projects statewide. Here are some of the projects at stake.
* The Varnum Farm Conservation and Recreation Project conserves forest land along seven miles of the Piscataquis River in Sebec, offers a hand-carry boat access site -- a high priority of Maine's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife -- and protects two important ITS snowmobile trail corridors.
* Three parcels on Merrymeeting Bay add to the department's effort to protect the largest estuary on the east coast north of Chesapeake Bay, and continue to provide outdoor recreational opportunities, including hunting, trapping, fishing, water access and hiking. If you have never been on Merrymeeting Bay, you would be amazed by its beauty.
* The department would acquire nine parcels for the new Pleasant Bay Wildlife Management Area in Addison, parcels that form the largest and most valuable habitats in New England for declining populations of migrating shorebirds and wintering black ducks. The land also provides 11,500 feet of water frontage, providing access for bird watching, waterfowl hunting, clamming, worming and boating.
* The West Grand Lake Forest Project will conserve an entire landscape that was selected as the No. 1 national priority for the U.S. Forest Service's Forest Legacy Program in 2011 because of its economic, recreational and ecological importance. For many years, I served on Maine's Forest Legacy Advisory Committee, and I can tell you that this designation is very significant.
* How can the governor ignore 6.4 miles of critical, regional, motorized trail corridor that links the towns of Rangeley, Kingfield, Carrabasett Valley, Madrid, Phillips and Strong?
* Is he aware of the importance of the Androscoggin Greenway Project, 21 parcels along the river in Canton, Jay and Livermore Falls that boast the "best smallmouth bass fishery north of the Missouri," according to Field and Stream magazine. I have fished there and it is truly amazing.
* LePage must be aware of the steep decline in the number of dairy farms in Maine. A conservation easement on the Winter Hill Farm in Freeport sustains a dairy farm and herd in a highly developed part of the state and protects an important public water aquifer.
* The Crocker Mountain Conservation Project contains three of Maine's 14 mountains higher than 4,000 feet, with 11,800 acres that is part of the largest high-elevation forest in Maine, both ecologically and recreationally significant.
* Given his experience in the forest and paper industries, LePage should appreciate the Great Pond Lower Penobscot Forest Project that obtains a working forest easement on 25,945 acres in the largest unfragmented forest block in central Maine, rated as the No. 1 at-risk forest in the nation by the U.S. Forest Service.
And these are not all of the important projects now jeopardized by the governor. Since the Land for Maine's Future program was created in 1987, Maine voters have approved LMF bonds five times by 2-to-1 margins. This outstanding program brought $100 million in federal and private matching funds to our state.
Every LMF dollar of bond money attracted $3 in matching funds and returned $11 in benefits to Maine's economy, according to an analysis by the Trust for Public Land.
LePage must be aware of how important these projects are to our economy.
Anyway you look at it, the Land For Maine's Future Program has been a great investment, delivering real value, sustaining our outdoor heritage and economy, conserving our best places and making us proud. You don't have to take my word for this, either.
In 2010, when LePage was elected governor with 39 percent of the vote, a $7 million LMF bond issue received 59 percent of the votes of Maine citizens. This is one of the bonds the governor refuses to sell.
In 2012, the $5 million LMF bond issue led the ballot, winning approval from 61 percent of the voters, a higher percentage of the vote than was received by any candidate on the ballot. And the 416,300 Maine voters who voted for this LMF bond in 2012 were 200,000 more voters than elected LePage governor in 2010.
It's time for LePage to put the people first. They have spoken strongly, consistently, repeatedly and as recently as last November. They want those LMF bonds sold and those project completed.
And if he continues to refuse, the Legislature should remove his authority over the sale of bonds and allow the state treasurer to sell them. Now. Before it's too late.
George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Smith's writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.