My 23-year-old grandson, Iain Kurry, is a lifelong Mainer. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, fishing and hunting, while he spends an equally large portion of his time outdoors working throughout Maine as a geologist for an environmental consulting firm. He is outdoors a lot.

The Pine Tree Amendment would have made it easier for Arundel dairy farmer Fred Stone, with his Brown Swiss Lida Rose in 2019, to seek justice when the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District found elevated levels of PFAS in a well on his land. Stone had to stop selling milk and kill more than half of his herd. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer, File

When I asked him about why he loves living here, he wrote, “What I love about Maine is the way its vast forests support sustainable industries such as logging, and sand and gravel mining, while still leaving much of the state wild. It also provides people like myself with countless recreational opportunities. Whether people are hikers, mountain bikers, bird watchers, hunters, anglers, trappers, paddlers, snowshoers, snowmobilers, skiers, or any number of other outdoor enthusiasts, they all take advantage of Maine’s extensive forests and clear waterways. It is important to preserve and restore the rivers, streams, lakes and forests so that these traditional use practices can continue for generations into the future.”

This might sound like a tourist brochure. It is important to protect Maine now, so that the tourist brochures of 50 years from now will sound the same.

The people of Maine have an opportunity to protect their rights to a clean and healthy environment. The Maine Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee recently voted in favor of an amendment to the Maine Constitution. L.D. 489 says the following:

“The people of the State have the right to a clean and healthy environment and to the preservation of the natural, cultural and healthful qualities of the environment.  The State may not infringe upon these rights.  The State shall conserve, protect and maintain the State’s natural resources, including, but not limited to, its air, water, land and ecosystems for the benefit of all the people, including generations yet to come.”

Much of the environmental degradation that exists in this world hurts people. This proposed Pine Tree Amendment to the Maine Constitution would guarantee that people have the right to clean air and water and a healthy environment, just like they have other rights, including the right to free speech, to possess firearms and to worship as they choose.

The amendment has now been sent to both the Maine Senate and the House of Representatives, and it needs to pass with a two-thirds majority in both chambers. It would then go to the people for a vote in November. If it passes, it is added to the state constitution.

Two states, Pennsylvania and Montana, have a similar amendment. In Pennsylvania, the gas industry had convinced the state legislature that fracking should be exempt from local zoning ordinances, and allowed to locate nearly anywhere. In 2013 the Delaware Riverkeeper Network sued the state for allowing this, based on their environmental rights added to the state constitution in 1971. They won.

The Pine Tree Amendment would accomplish several things:

• It would give the people of Maine a leg up to protect its natural resources and grow our economy. Maine’s identity and economy are based on its natural assets and are heavily intertwined.

• It would make it easier to combat environmental degradation. Several years ago, Fred Stone of Arundel discovered PFAS, a family of toxic chemicals, on his farm. The PFAS was in the sludge used to fertilize his fields. These “forever chemicals” entered his well water and contaminated his cows’ milk. The dairy that Stone sold to stopped buying his milk. The Pine Tree Amendment would have made it easier to seek justice.

• It would provide a navigational aid to policymakers to guide the creation of legislation that guarantees our environmental rights. In 2010 the Quality of Place bill passed the Legislature, legislation that was designed to build Maine’s economy based on Maine’s strengths. But the next governor repealed the legislation in 2011. The Pine Tree Amendment would help protect the state’s environmental laws.

I hope that for Iain’s sake and that of the generations that will follow him that the amendment passes in Maine. Please urge your senator and representative to vote for the Pine Tree Amendment.


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