Down East 2013 ©
To veto or not to veto? That’s the question for Governor Paul LePage when he returns to Maine this weekend. The legislature’s endorsement of a group of bond issues leaves only the governor standing in the way of giving the people of Maine a chance to vote on those bonds, each designed to address a problem and boost our economy.
Each bond was presented to legislators and voted on as a separate bill, so the Governor can pick his way through them, signing some and vetoing others. I’ve heard that he may veto all of them.
If he vetoes the $5 million bond for the Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) program (the smallest of all the proposed bonds), he’ll be demonstrating yet another unbelievable inconsistency in his approach to building Maine’s economy.
On the same day (May 16) when more than two-thirds of the members of the House and Senate were endorsing the LMF bond, Maine’s Forest Legacy Advisory Committee was hearing about an exciting new project that focuses on critical habitat for white-tailed deer and native brook trout – precisely what many of us hope LMF will do over the next few years, if it has any funding.
David Trahan of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and Tom Abello of the Nature Conservancy worked together to add language to the proposed LMF bond that encourages the purchase of deer yards and fisheries habitat.
Forest Legacy is a federal program. The Forest Legacy Committee advises the Department of Conservation on legacy projects and issues. I served on the committee for many years, during a period when Maine got almost all the federal money allocated to legacy projects. Eventually other states got into the act, and Maine now typically gets one or two legacy projects funded each year. This year two Maine projects received federal funding.
The exciting project that was presented to the Forest Legacy Committee on May 16 is now being negotiated by the Trust for Public Land and the Maine landowner – with the support of the LePage administration. Assisting in the negotiations and the presentation to the legacy committee, on behalf of the LePage administration, was Sarah Demers of Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Unfortunately, this exciting new conservation project may be jeopardized without Land for Maine’s Future money to provide necessary matching funds for the federal Forest Legacy funding the Trust for Public Land hopes to use to purchase this land.
Consider the values in this new project: 8 remote wild brook trout ponds, 250 feet on both sides of a stream that is the primary spawning grounds for the region’s wild trout population, and 3,000 acres of critically important white-tail deer wintering yards. Maine would acquire fee ownership interest in all of this property, a total of 8,153 acres.
It hardly needs to be said that this land would be prime for development if it were not targeted for conservation and state ownership. And we already know that one dollar of land conservation spending returns eleven dollars of economic gain!
So here’s the situation. Governor LePage supports the conservation project presented to the Forest Legacy Committee, and a member of his administration is actively working on it.
Although that project expects to receive 75 percent of its funding from the federal legacy program, a contribution from the Land for Maine’s Future program will also be a key component of the deal.
That money will be needed in the fiscal year 2014. The Land for Maine’s Future Program will run out of money in 2012. Without a new bond issue, there will be no LMF program – or funds – for the project cited above.
No three thousand acres of deeryards. No prime brook trout spawning habitat. No remote wild brook trout ponds.
And, oh yeah, there’s this one other thing. The purchase, protection, and enhancement of deeryards is a critical component of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Game Plan for Deer – a plan that Governor LePage enthusiastically endorsed and announced at an exciting press conference less than a year ago.
The governor’s decision on this one is a no-brainer. So why am I worried?