Maine’s identity is built upon its natural resource industries. Forestry, farming, fishing and recreation are the lifeblood of Maine’s economy and communities. These industries provide jobs, food and outdoor enjoyment across all of Maine’s 16 counties and play a critical role in the stewardship of the lands that sustain them. A new Land for Maine’s Future bond is needed to ensure that Maine’s natural and working lands – and the businesses and people they support – will flourish for generations to come.

Kim Larabee of Steep Falls and her mom, Pat, head out for a walk with their dog, Rosie, at Fuller Farm in Scarborough in 2018. The property, including 180 acres of fields, woodlands and Nonesuch River frontage, is permanently protected by the Scarborough Land Trust, the town of Scarborough, the Land for Maine’s Future Program, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and The Trust for Public Land 2001. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer, File

Land conservation programs do not just protect the environment, but also have a meaningful and lasting impact on businesses and communities across the state.

My business, as a farmer, has benefited directly from farmland conservation. We purchased Bumbleroot Organic Farm six years ago with the help of an agricultural easement that simultaneously protected our historical farm from development and gave us access to land we otherwise could not afford. My wife and I, along with another couple, are now stewards of 89 acres in Windham where we work every day to feed our community, build healthy soils and support biodiversity.

Our farm has always had enormous support from our local community through restaurant sales and community-supported agriculture subscriptions; however, the events of last year underscored just how vital local food producers and harvesters are to Mainers. During the pandemic, supply chains were disrupted and the global economy slowed down, so people cooked at home more and traveled less. They looked to their local farmers, fishermen and retailers as well as their neighborhood trails and parks to meet their needs. In order to ensure these essential resources are forever available to all Mainers, we need to reinvest in LMF to support land conservation and natural resource-based businesses.

Funding for LMF is vital for preserving Maine’s forests, farmlands, working waterfronts and wildlife. Since its creation in 1987, LMF has protected over 600,000 acres, including 41 farms, 26 commercial waterfront properties and numerous working forest projects, which provide food and fiber for our communities. This type of conservation is more important than ever, as each year Maine loses 10,000 acres of natural and working lands to development – and this number is expected to increase.

Unfortunately, LMF has just about run out of money since the last bond for the program was passed in 2012, and it needs to be re-funded to continue doing good throughout Maine. Both Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, and Rep. Patrick Corey, R-Windham, introduced legislation this session in direct support of LMF and Maine state parks. State investment in LMF will also unlock other sources of funding, especially from the federal government through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which will maximize our investment in Maine lands and waters.

Everyone in Maine has some connection to the outdoors. Our deep connection to the outdoors and our natural places are some of the best parts about living and working here. Whether you hunt, fish, ski, hike, buy local or farm, our natural and working lands and access to them are what make life in Maine so unique. Supporting the LMF program will help to protect the lifestyle and the places we hold dear.

I urge Maine’s legislators to support a LMF and state parks bond this legislative session. For the health of our people, our communities and our natural resource-based businesses, we cannot afford to wait any longer to refund the LMF program.

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