It’s gotten no publicity, but next Tuesday (March 25) the legislature’s Judiciary Committee will host a public hearing on Governor Paul LePage’s proposal to slam the door on the federal government. This will be a surprise to many. I certainly had not heard of it until someone alerted me to it yesterday – ironically at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism.
Sponsored for the Governor by Senator Doug Thomas, LD 1828, according to the bill’s summary, “amends the blanket consent that is statutorily given by the State to the Federal Government to acquire lands required for various government purposes. The bill limits the consent to the acquisition of land not exceeding 5 square miles.”
It appears that the Governor and Senator Thomas are aiming this at Elliotsville Plantation’s proposed national park adjacent to Baxter State Park. They might want to tread carefully here, because the Governor’s Office of Tourism has set ambitious goals to increase visitors to Maine this year.
And Maine’s only national park, Acadia, is our biggest draw and most important destination for tourists. A total of 2.25 million people visited Acadia National Park in 2013, making it the 9th most popular national park in the nation.
By comparison, our 32 state parks spread throughout the state and comprising some of our most beautiful spots, drew 2.6 million visitors last year.
Here’s what the current law says about federal acquisitions of land in Maine, with the new language in bold:
In accordance with the Constitution of the United States, Article 1, Section VIII, Clause 17, and Acts of Congress in such cases provided, the consent of the Legislature is given to the acquisition by the United States, or under its authority, by purchase, condemnation or otherwise, of any land in this State not exceeding 5 square miles required for the erection of lighthouses or for sites for customhouses, courthouses, post offices, arsenals or other public buildings, or for any other purposes of the government. Deeds and conveyances or title papers for the same shall must be recorded upon the land records of the county or registry district in which the land so conveyed may lie; and in like manner may be recorded a sufficient description by metes and bounds, courses and distances, of any tracts and legal divisions of any public lands belonging to the United States set apart by the general government for either of the purposes before mentioned, by an order, patent or other official paper so describing such land.
While you might think the Governor and legislature has quite enough on their plate right now, this issue could emerge as yet another major battle. It’s certainly curious that it came up this late in the session.