Chapter Takes Position: Land for Maine’s Future Program

By Colleen Hartel

Scenic Image Credit: USDA

The Maine Chapter of TWS has developed a position statement regarding Governor LePage’s withholding of funds for Land for Maine’s Future program (LMF), which has played a critical role in conservation within the state.

The LMF Program funds priority land acquisition for conservation purposes. Proposals are thoroughly reviewed by a nine-member Board composed of the Commissioners of the Department of Maine Resources, Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry, and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife along with six governor-appointed private citizens. Proposals are evaluated on numerous criteria, including naturalness of properties, public recreational access, water access, wildlife, and open space. LMF funds have the ability to address regional conservation needs and to support many municipalities across the state.

Although Maine voters have overwhelmingly supported LMF bonds, Governor LePage has recently impeded the project approval process. Governor LePage has announced that he will approve projects rather than implementing projects recommended by the LMF Board following their comprehensive reviews.

“The Governor has usurped the LMF Board’s responsibility to distribute funds from the Land for Maine’s Future Fund after all their work to review projects,” says Maine TWS member, Jerry Longcore, who helped develop the position statement. “His actions have disrupted the process at a critical step, that of distributing the funds to put the money to work.”

The Maine Chapter’s position statement outlines how Governor LePage’s actions have undermined the LMF process and affected negotiations between landowners and existing partnerships with local sporting groups, towns, businesses, state agencies, land trusts, and other non-governmental organizations. The position statement further details how his actions may result in the loss of funds previously approved by voters.

“The LMF program is used for regional conservation,” says Longcore. “The projects are critical for fish and wildlife habitat and state significant lands and the projects benefit Maine citizens throughout the state.”

In 2010, voters approved $6.47 million in funding for the program. Those funds will expire if not authorized for use by Governor LePage before the end of 2015.

Source: Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Land for Maine’s Future Workbook

Colleen Hartel is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program.

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