Gov. Paul LePage abruptly withdrew his nomination of a former state lawmaker to the Land for Maine’s Future board on Friday, giving no reason for his action on a nomination that had drawn fire from environmentalists.
LePage, in a three-sentence letter to House Speaker Sara Gideon, wrote that he is no longer nominating former state Rep. Michael Timmons, R-Cumberland, to serve on the board.
Timmons had been criticized by environmental groups for voting in 2015 to sustain LePage’s veto of a bill that would have required the governor to sell voter-approved bonds for the Land for Maine’s Future program.
Timmons lost his re-election bid in November to Dale Denno, a Democrat from Cumberland, after angering environmental groups – and some constituents – with his vote to sustain LePage’s veto.
Timmons’ district and hometown were banking on money from those bonds to complete a conservation deal to protect 215 acres around Knight’s Pond.
Land for Maine’s Future is the state’s leading conservation program. It has helped protect more than 500,000 acres of working forests, farmland and working waterfronts through land sales or conservation easements. Project applicants must match every dollar from the state with private or federal money, and all conservation land projects must provide access to the public for recreational activities such as hiking, hunting or fishing.
In his letter Friday, LePage cited a notification requirement in state law and informed Gideon that he no longer wanted to appoint Timmons to the board. Neither LePage nor his staff offered another nominee Friday.
Environmentalists in Maine considered LePage’s nomination of Timmons to be “provocative,” but Timmons has said his environmental voting record was misconstrued.
Beth Ahearn, with Maine Conservation Voters, which spent money opposing Timmons’ re-election and criticized his nomination, said Friday that the organization is pleased that LePage has withdrawn Timmons’ name.
Ahearn didn’t know whom LePage might nominate instead.
“There was a clear history and a record with Mike Timmons, and we are simply glad his nomination has been withdrawn,” she said.
Timmons did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
The former lawmaker also came under fire from conservationists when he first voted to override a LePage veto of a solar energy bill supported by environmental groups, then missed a second vote on the veto, which was sustained by just a two-vote margin.
Environmental groups used the issues to savage Timmons during his re-election bid last fall.
But Timmons, who defended his voting record, said the bill forcing LePage’s hand on bonds was fraught with legal problems, and he criticized the aggressive lobbying and parliamentary tactics supporters of the solar bill used to try to get it passed.
Timmons’ nomination was likely to face stiff opposition from some of the organizations that criticized his votes or worked to elect his challenger. Each nominee to the board has a hearing before the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee, which makes a recommendation to the Maine Senate, where nominees face confirmation votes.
LePage has been critical of Maine’s land conservation and environmental communities, claiming conservation programs largely benefit only wealthy landowners looking for property tax shelters. But LePage’s critics accuse him of playing politics with the Land for Maine’s Future program, which has broad public support with Maine voters, who have regularly authorized bonding bills to help fund a program that aims to conserve iconic stretches of Maine’s landscape.
The program is overseen by a nine-member board consisting of six public members nominated by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature as well as three members of the governor’s Cabinet: the commissioners of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the Department of Marine Resources and the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.
Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at: