“If Governor LePage does not release the 2010 voter-approved Land for Maine’s Future bonds this June, he will be intentionally and single-handedly undermining targeted investments in local economies across Maine.” That was the statement of Tim Glidden, President of Maine Coast Heritage Trust, in a June 11 press release from the Land for Maine’s Future Coalition.
More than 250 organizations including sportsmen, business leaders, health organizations, conservationists, environmentalists, and others called on the Governor to honor his word and the wishes of Maine voters by releasing the bonds. The press release took us back two years with a quote from the Governor: “As a measure of good faith, I am hereby directing the State Treasurer to begin to prepare those bonds for my signature on an expedited basis.”
I am sure I don’t have to tell you that the Governor broke his promise and is refusing to release those bonds totaling $6.47 million, approved by Maine voters in 2010. The Governor has a maximum of five years to sell those bonds, or they could be lost forever.
The press release noted that, in the history of the LMF program, every public LMF dollar has been matched, on average, by at least three dollars in additional contributions. So the Governor’s intransigence could result in the loss of more than $30 million in total conservation/economic investment. Much worse, in my mind, would be the lost opportunities to conserve, for all of us, some of our most outstanding lands – including a lot of very valuable fisheries and wildlife habitat.
Leaders from the farming, business, and environmental communities were quoted in the news release, but it was the statement of David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, that grabbed my attention. The press release included a strongly-worded June 11 letter from SAM to the Governor, demanding that he, “Please stop playing politics with this highly popular and essential conservation program.”
Dave’s letter is compelling, and I am going to share all of it with you here, with my thanks to Dave and SAM for stepping up on this important issue in such a strong and visible way.
OPEN LETTER TO GOVERNOR LEPAGE
FROM SPORTSMANS ALLIANCE OF MAINE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Dear Governor LePage:
Please stop playing politics with this highly popular and essential conservation program and please consider learning more about who is being served by our public lands. You have said recently at a Brunswick event that LMF was a program for the rich. You said, “We ask the taxpayer — which is not the rich people — to sell bonds and give it to the rich people so they can get these beautiful pieces of land conserved, and once you conserve it, you say to the poor people, ‘pay for it.”
Governor, with all due respect, I could not disagree with you more. If not for public lands purchased by the Land for Maine’s Future like ocean access for fisherman, families, who have earned a living fishing for generations would lose their livelihoods to wealthy non-residents that buy up our ocean fronts and build million dollar estates forcing the working people inland. If not for public lands, the poor, disabled, and elderly would have no access to our natural resources that belong as much to them as those that can afford to buy their personal kingdoms.
This statement was drilled home this last Saturday when I attended a youth “Hooked on Fishing” community event at Damariscotta Lake State beach when I spent the day taking children some from low income families fishing on our local lake. I could not help but reflect on your claims as I passed the many expensive lakeside estates that lined the shore. I knew with certainty that many of the children in my boat would never afford such luxuries and if not for the very small and limited access through our public beach, this resource would be off limits for them and thousands more.
Governor, I attend many veteran events, where if not for public access to our natural resources, veterans with broken bodies and broken spirits would never enjoy the healing power of being part of nature, if only for a day. Just yesterday, I learned of one veteran that spent twenty years in a wheel chair before finally, at a one of these events, was lifted into a kayak and set free on the water. I was told his outburst of joy could be heard on all of Wyman Lake.
Governor, please look beyond your personal politics and reflect on the very destructive path you have set for the Land for Maine’s Future Program and open you heart to what can happen on our public lands if you chose another route. If you decided to work with the many groups that actually use the land, we could re-build boat ramps so that they are wheelchair accessible. We could develop family friendly state lands where everyone, no matter their means, could share the outdoors.
Before you complete the destruction of this important program, I beg you to visit our state lands. This June 16th, nearly a hundred veterans and volunteers will gather at Great Pond in Belgrade to pay tribute to service, where veterans, first responders and others will join complete strangers in celebrating our outdoors by sharing a day fishing. I believe you would benefit greatly by attending.
Executive Director, Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine