AUGUSTA — The Natural Resources Council of Maine held a news conference June 1 to complain about a letter I wrote to some of its donors. To no one’s surprise, the Maine media was quick to take the NRCM’s side.

The truth is that the NRCM is a wealthy nonprofit organization run by environmental activists whose public face masks its true intent. Quite simply, the NRCM is fiercely opposed to any economic activity that would provide good-paying career jobs for rural Mainers who are desperate for employment. You won’t read about this in newspapers or see it on TV.

The NRCM is funded by hundreds of wealthy donors, many of whom most likely do not understand the job-crushing intent of its activist agenda. It is easy to convince out-of-state visitors, residents of wealthy coastal towns and those living in southern Maine to financially support the perceived policies of the NRCM. However, these well-meaning donors enjoy low rates of unemployment, nice homes, clean and safe neighborhoods and thriving local businesses.

Most are almost certainly unfamiliar with the harsh economic crisis facing rural Maine, especially in northern and Down East Maine. They’ve probably never heard of towns such as Danforth, St. David or Athens, which are some of the communities in desperate need of prosperous jobs. As these well-meaning folks send in their annual donations, they probably don’t realize that the NRCM’s anti-business policies are preventing poor, rural Mainers from getting the kind of jobs they need to raise themselves out of poverty.

The NRCM is the chief supporter of the aggressive movement to preserve – not conserve – the environment, which is holding Maine back from prosperity. The organization has blocked reasonable mining regulations that would provide high-paying jobs to rural families in northern Maine; promoted unilateral executive action to establish a national monument that would eliminate hunting and timber harvesting from thousands of acres; and has proudly blocked any significant hydroelectricity development over the last 40 years. These policy decisions have contributed to the decline of the manufacturing base that has been an anchor for rural Maine and has employed generations of sportsmen and women.

Maine has traditionally balanced the stewardship of our environment while ensuring our population has economic opportunity. A Maine Department of Environmental Protection official who is leaving the position to be with family in Massachusetts told me that over the past few years, many people have thanked the department for finally allowing them to be treated fairly on environmental issues. The DEP has worked hard to restore the concepts of good science and common sense into its mission, while still striving to protect our environment.

We have seen great success. Maine now has one of the cleanest energy portfolios in the country and millions of acres of green-certified forest. The Maine lobster fishery is certified sustainable through the Marine Stewardship Council, which is widely considered the gold standard in sustainability certification.

However, a balance is vital to providing opportunities for prosperity to rural Mainers. If we support economic development at the expense of the environment, we will have a natural disaster. If we support the environment over any kind of economic development, we will continue to have severe poverty.

The NRCM is not interested in this balance. The NRCM never says, “Let’s work together.” It just says “no” to every opportunity that would allow Mainers to prosper, and it is working to make rural Maine a national park virtually devoid of human activity or meaningful employment.

Donors may not realize that their financial support of the NRCM pays for a lavish office building just a block from the State House – a short walk for its highly paid lobbyists to push their agenda on legislators – while residents of places like Calais, Millinocket or Mars Hill cannot afford even modest, middle-income homes. NRCM recently spent donors’ money to rent buses and transport activists from southern Maine to a meeting in Orono to push for a national monument in the Katahdin region, something the Legislature and town after town in rural Maine have voted to oppose.

Folks in rural Maine have neither the time nor the resources to attend these meetings or travel to the State House and lobby for the good jobs they need. The NRCM should not be leading the charge to deny life-changing economic opportunity to poverty-stricken people in rural Maine. That’s why I have invited the NRCM to meet with me and discuss how we can work together to create long-term, good-paying career jobs for Maine people.

I understand and appreciate donors’ desire to support Maine’s environment and precious natural resources. However, they should know their financial support of the NRCM is costing rural Mainers good jobs and keeping them mired in poverty. I urge supporters of the NRCM to take a balanced approach to protect our environment and provide prosperity for the Maine people who live in it.


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