Investing in Maine’s Outdoors

March 18, 2020

We get so much from being active outdoors in beautiful places, both near and far. Whether it’s a hike and a swim on Tumbledown Mountain, a multi-day backpacking exploration of the Grafton Loop, or a quick jog or bike ride on a nearby trail, we can stretch our legs, clear our minds, and renew our spirit. Now two programs that make those places available, the Land for Maine’s Future program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, need us to give back by raising our voices in their support.

The Land for Maine’s Future program, or LMF, has helped to conserve some of Maine’s most iconic places so that all of us can continue to enjoy them. Mt. Kineo and the Bold Coast in Cutler were protected from development in part with support from the program. LMF has helped conserve over 600,000 acres in Maine, including 315,000 acres of working forest land, 9,700 acres of working farmland, and two dozen working waterfront sites providing access to the ocean from York to Lubec.

Mount Kineo was protected with the support of the Land for Maine’s Future Program.

In 1987, the legislature recognized that “the future social and economic well-being of the citizens of this state depends upon maintaining the quality and availability of natural areas for recreation, hunting and fishing, conservation, wildlife habitat, vital ecologic functions, and scenic beauty and that the state, as the public’s trustee, has a responsibility and a duty to pursue an aggressive and coordinated policy to assure that this Maine heritage is passed on to future generations.”

Those leaders foresaw that the very qualities that make Maine special might slip away from us forever. Maine people have responded with enthusiasm, supporting funding for Land for Maine’s Future at the ballot box by strong margins whenever they’ve been given the chance.

Now the program needs an infusion of funding. State legislators need to hear from us, their constituents, that we care deeply about access to the fresh air, open space, beauty, (and seafood!) that make Maine different. Please reach out to your representative and senator today to ask them to pass LD #911, An Act to Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue to Promote Land Conservation, Working Waterfronts, Water Access, and Outdoor Recreation, sponsored by Senator Cathy Breen.

One smart aspect of the LMF program is that it requires a dollar from other sources to match each state dollar spent. That can include money from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Companies that drill offshore for oil and gas pay royalties into the Land and Water Conservation Fund to safeguard natural areas, water resources, and our cultural heritage. The money is intended to protect national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests, and national wildlife refuges from development, and to provide matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects. Over the years, LWCF has also grown and evolved to include grants to protect working forests, wildlife habitat, critical drinking water supplies, and disappearing battlefields, as well as increased use of easements.

‘Here in Maine, the LWCF has contributed more than $191 million to the protection and enhancement of the Appalachian Trail, Acadia National Park, the Bigelow Preserve, Saddleback Mountain, and the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. Forest Legacy grant funds under the LWCF have helped accomplish landscape-scale conservation like the innovative Katahdin Forest, protecting both jobs and wildlife.

Over and over, LWCF funds have been diverted to other uses. Now Congress has an opportunity to take bipartisan action to fund both the LWCF and the backlog of maintenance at our national parks. The Great American Outdoors Act is up for consideration in the Senate, and both Senators Collins and King are supportive. The House needs to act by passing matching legislation.

Now is the time to set aside differences and work together. Please contact our congressional delegation to let them know you support the Great American Outdoors Act. 

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Eliza Townsend

AMC's Maine Conservation Policy Director