BRISTOL — Lawmakers will soon hear L.D. 911, a proposal to ask voters this fall to consider borrowing $95 million for state park improvements and Land for Maine’s Future. Here is the language Mainers will see if L.D. 911 is approved.

“Do you favor a $95,000,000 bond issue to invest in state parks and historic sites, land conservation, water access, wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation opportunities, including hunting and fishing, farmlands and working waterfronts to be matched by at least $75,000,000 in private and public contributions?”

Seems fairly straightforward – but there’s a dark side that we don’t hear about, and for good reason. Buried in the fine print of the proposal to authorize a General Fund bond issue, Section 5, No. 1A states: “Hunting, fishing, trapping and public access may not be prohibited on land acquired with bond proceeds, except to the extent of applicable state, local or federal laws, rules and regulations and except for working waterfront projects and farmland protection projects.” Note that the hunting and trapping requirement is not stated in the bond’s language, depriving voters of important information they should have as they decide the fate of L.D. 911.

We should ask, “Do we really need more land for hunting and trapping?” The Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry maintains over a half-million acres of reserved public land, many of which allow hunting. What’s more, several National Wildlife Refuges located in Maine are open to hunting, and many landowners allow hunting and trapping on their properties.

And hunting and trapping are inherently dangerous activities. What about the majority of Mainers who neither hunt nor trap but simply want to enjoy a peaceful day in the woods? Most people who hike the trails established by the numerous land trusts are there to enjoy nature on its own terms. They don’t want to consider that a helpless animal or a captured dog or cat may lie struggling against hope to free itself from the grip of a steel trap. They don’t want to be startled by a gunshot that shatters the primeval quiet of the wilderness, and they shouldn’t have to be prepared to dodge a bullet.

L.D. 911 also undermines local control, telling us what we must do and raising the question “Why are Land for Maine’s Future’s purse strings tied to the state’s two most vocal special interest groups – hunters and trappers – when they constitute only a small minority (roughly 15 percent) of Maine’s total population?” That decision gives them control way out of proportion to their numbers and empowers them to conduct a kind of economic blackmail: If you want LMF money, you must allow hunting and trapping.

Let’s not forget that if the bond is approved, funds won’t be disbursed from a private institution that might require certain conditions. Instead, $95 million will be loaned to all Maine citizens, who have to repay it with interest through their taxes. This is public money, not private money – all the more reason why trusts should be managed at the local level by those who know the land in question and can make decisions on a case-by-case basis according to the particular conservation and/or ecological needs of the property.

Conserving land is a worthy goal, but not at the cost of sacrificing local control. Mainers are famous for their independence and don’t like to be dictated to. That’s why we should not be denied the right to do as we think best, especially when it’s our money that provides the funding: We should not be dictated to by a small group intent on pushing their own agenda.

If you think that Mainers should not be told what activities they must allow on their own conserved land, and that freedom of choice and local control should be protected, contact your legislators and those on the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee to urge them to amend L.D. 911 by deleting the hunting and trapping requirement.

Though the bill has not been scheduled, you can still send your comments to committee members at this website: legislature.maine.gov/committee/#Committees/AFA.

If we can preserve the land, we should also be able to protect the public who use it and the wildlife who live on it.