Environmental protection wasn’t always a partisan issue in Maine. Going back to the 1960s, politicians like former Republican legislators Harry Richardson and Horace Hildreth helped write the laws that cleaned up Maine’s rivers, removed toxic waste and improved air quality.

Programs like Land for Maine’s Future have been successful and popular with Mainers of all political stripes.

But consensus has not been the norm, and too often in recent years environmental arguments have broken down along partisan lines.

Maine’s regulatory regime and environmental activism have been the target of criticism from business interests and have been the subject of numerous political attacks during the recent election. Some of them were off the mark.

For instance, the Maine Yankee nuclear power plant was not shut down by environmentalists, as some candidates have claimed. It was shut down by its owners, who did not want to pay for the repairs needed to extend its life.

And the paper industry has not been driven out of Maine by environmental standards.

The industry produces as much paper as it ever did, albeit with far fewer workers due to more efficient technology. That proves that industry and environmental protection can exist together.

But all the criticism of Maine’s regulatory climate is not misguided. Over-regulation was ranked with high health care and energy costs as a top impediment to doing business in Maine in a recent survey — ahead of high taxes as a cause of concern.

The length of time it takes to reach a decision is as much problem as the rules themselves. As a developer once said, “I didn’t mind that they said ‘no,’ I just wish it was $1 million sooner.”

There is still room for bipartisan consensus on the goals of environmental protection, even when there is disagreement over the methods best employed to achieve them.

Gov.-elect Paul LePage and a Republican-led Legislature have an opportunity to make progress on these issues.

That can happen if they can assure the public that they will not sacrifice Maine’s clean air, water and open space that are necessary for traditional Maine industries like farming, fishing, forestry and tourism as well as the health and quality of life for its residents.

The election shows that Mainers are ready to make some changes in the way the environment is protected. It will take work from all sides to make sure that these changes are consistent with Maine values.