Tuesday February 19, 2013 | 11:25 AM
Posted by Mike Tetreault

With the legislative session underway, I don’t see much of my colleague Tom Abello. Many of his days are spent up at the State House working with the administration and legislators on both sides of aisle on a wide array of policy issues and bills. The Nature Conservancy might weigh in on a policy related to land conservation, tax policy, fisheries, mining and the state budget. These issues are complex and solutions require an open mind, and often, the ability to compromise.

The stories he brings back from Augusta are treat for me to hear. They are a reinforcement that Mainers - regardless of where we come from, what party we belong to, or where we live - care deeply about the natural world.

For example, he recently shared a conversation he had about the difficulty facing Maine’s fishing industry with Sen. Chris Johnson, the Senate Chair of the Marine Resources. Johnson hails from Lincoln County and is working hard to solve many of the issues, whether related to groundfish, shrimp or lobsters.

Representative Jeff Timberlake, from Turner, owns Ricker Hill Orchards. Wild turkeys were on the top of his mind as Timberlake’s apple trees are taking a beating from turkeys looking for a meal. He was walking eagerly into the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee Room to testify in favor of expanding the state’s wild turkey hunting season and bag limit. In his hand as evidence was pussy willow branches stripped of their buds.

Wilton House member Russell Black is a strong supporter of the work of Maine’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts. The Districts work to address conservation challenges on private land. They focus is on agriculture and forestry. SWCD's hold workshops, set up demonstrations, offer educational programs, review development plans, and set priorities for one-on-one technical assistance. Operating on a very tight budget, Rep. Black introduced a bill that seeks to provide state resources to help fund their work.

These stories are just snapshot of the discussions and debates that take place each day in Augusta. In the days when there is so much talk of how legislators can’t come to agreement and that elected officials are more and more polarized – I sometimes wish we could have a State House day where we they all got to tell their stories of why Maine’s outdoors matters to them – whether they snowshoe or snow mobile, hunt or go birding, or enjoy the state parks with their families, Mainers – and our legislators – care deeply about carrying on the traditions they have grown up with.  This year, when you are frustrated with the tone of politics, it could be worth joining your legislator at his or her open house and ask them to tell their story of why they care about Maine’s nature.

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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.

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