WINDHAM — Once upon a time, if it quacked and looked like a duck, it was a duck. Now, “It ain’t necessarily so.” Today, it might be a hyperrealistic, remote-control decoy.

It’s beginning to look like our new governor might be a decoy, operated remotely by developers.

We’ve all seen this play many times before. A developer, having already bent the ear of their prime candidate, and possibly having made considerable donations to his or her campaign, gets face time with the governor-elect during which he pitches his problems with regulations.

He tells how, if these regulations were relaxed or expunged, they could create many jobs via development.

Lobbyists follow up with “the details”; the election takes place, and it’s time to pay the piper. Then come the surveyors to chop up the land; then the dozers, backhoes, gravel firms, paving businesses, builders, etc. – all operated by hard-working people who need jobs.

But how many jobs are we looking at? Are they long-term jobs? Are the firms located in Maine? Are Maine people being hired? Do they give a hoot about whether our water becomes contaminated?

Quite often the answers to these questions are, I don’t know, or, simply no.

Why is the protection of vernal pools important? As was mentioned in a Jan. 19 Press Herald article by Tom Bell (“LePage: Ease regulations that protect vernal pools”), vernal pools are “small bodies of water that dry up for part of the year. Because they have no fish in them, they are relatively safe places for amphibians to breed and spend the first few weeks of their lives before they crawl out into the forest.”

In addition to providing a place for frogs, salamanders, etc., to breed, these ponds, for whatever length of time they hold water, provide water and food for many other animals, such as herons, weasels, mink, fox, who drink the water and eat the creatures. The presence, or lack of, frogs, salamanders and gymnophiona (limbless amphibians) are “ecological indicators.”

The numbers of these creatures have been in rapid decline over the past few decades, which is, in large part, why the law protecting “significant” vernal pools took effect in 2007.

At this point, I’m sure you can understand that without vernal pools, the chain of life is affected and we, because we are part of that chain, ultimately are affected to the same degree as other creatures.

Also, without wildlife and habitat, tourism, which is the leading industry in Maine, withers, as it has in other places in the world, and possibly disappears. What a change that would mean for those of us who enjoy and depend on Maine’s natural resources and tourism.

Just below my house is a pond that is home to many types of frogs, toads, salamanders, etc. A fox den is not too far from the pond. I’ve seen ducks, heron, birds, deer and many other creatures in and around the pond.

Because the pond was considered a “farm pond” by DEP, it would not have been protected under the vernal pool law, which hadn’t yet taken effect anyway. There was no other existing protection for this pond.

Therefore, the developer was allowed, with the guidance and planning of the engineering firm, to direct storm drain runoff into the pond and a stream, which both leach water into private wells, wetlands and, below all of this, into one of the largest aquifers in Maine, which feeds water into Sebago Lake – the source of drinking water for communities provided by the Portland Water District.

Sebago Lake is also a place where many people live and tourists flock, along with hunters and fishing enthusiasts who buy licenses to hunt and fish around and in Sebago.

However, if this type of activity is already generally allowed and we take away the little bit of protection for “significant” vernal pools, it isn’t a stretch to see additional stress it would put back on nature (us).

I know Gov. LePage said he would not be paying attention to editorials and opinion pieces, but if he can pay attention to developers, I hope he can at least consider what I’ve outlined above.

Without tourists and the habitat they come here to see – the rivers, streams and life we all enjoy and depend on – we might as well pave the entire state, with the exception of land we’ve managed to protect in wilderness areas, and become an annex of New Jersey.

The rivers could be used, as they once were, as dumping points for sewage, chemicals and trash – perhaps by the same “private stewards”?

 

– Special to The Press Herald