Saturday, April 19, 2014
When you step into the voting booth next week, the future of Maine is in your hands. Yes, in these partisan times, the outcomes of the presidential and senate elections could mean very different paths for our state.
But if you want to have an immediate impact on the local economy, look a little farther down your ballot.
Question 3, the Land for Maine's Future bond, offers some of the best opportunities for building Maine's economy. From clam diggers in Washington County to restaurant owners and innkeepers in the Midcoast, from gas stations along 1-95 to hunting cabins in Aroostook County, small businesses across our state rely on our natural resources to make their living.
Question 3 asks: Do you favor a $5,000,000 bond issue to purchase land and conservation easements statewide from willing sellers for public land and water access, conservation, wildlife or fish habitat and outdoor recreation, including hunting and fishing and deer wintering areas, and to preserve working farmland and working waterfronts to be matched by at least $5,000,000 in private and public contributions?
Should Maine voters approve that $5 million in bond funds, it will bring at least an additional $5 million in federal and private sector matching funds. I don't know of many other investments in this uncertain world with a guaranteed 1:1 return.
That's why Maine voters have approved LMF bonds by nearly 2:1 margins five times since it was established in 1987, attracting about $100 million dollars in federal and private matching funds over the past 25 years. For every dollar of bond money that LMF has invested, it has brought in $3 in matching funds, and $11 in benefits to Maine's economy, according to a recent analysis completed by the Trust for Public Land.
But perhaps more critically, the funding will help local businesspeople. Gerry Cushman, a lobsterman from Port Clyde, spoke about the benefit of LMF to secure waterfront access for his and many other fishing families.
It's about securing access for future generations, he said; "For many of us working in natural resource-based industries, our livelihoods are tied to the lands, forests, harbors, lakes and rivers …"
So for fishermen, for foresters, for deer hunters and the businesses that rely on them, for farmers, for fishing guides, for wormers and loggers and the hundreds of small businesses that keep tourists coming back to Maine every summer to hike and camp and shop - for your friends and your neighbors and the future generations of Mainers who deserve a chance to work in these time-honored traditional industries, join me in supporting Land for Maine's Future by voting yes on Question 3.
Mike Tetreault leads The Nature Conservancy in Maine, where he works with partners in conservation, government and community development to identify solutions which ensure that Maine's natural resources are available for people and for nature.
He holds a degree in environmental studies from Brown and a MS from the field naturalist program at the University of Vermont, and has studied resource management in Kenya, Mexico and throughout New England.
Tetreault started his career teaching wilderness leadership and environmental education, and has worked for The Nature Conservancy since 1998. He lives in Bath with his wife, their daughter and a menagerie of pets.