Like many Mainers, I spend a lot of time outside enjoying the natural beauty of this marvelous, glacially carved state. I cherish serene morning walks with my dog at Mackworth Island. Starting my day with fresh air and a bounding puppy is a welcome moment to connect with my surroundings. It was during one of these walks that I had a realization that we, as a society, have found ourselves in a very unnatural place. We live in a time where politics and party lines have become polarized and immovable, and compromise is celebrated as novel. The tension is palpable and felt in all of us, regardless of our political leanings.

Nothing in the world can remain stagnant and thrive. Democracy ebbs and flows with each election and change of administration. It’s a swirling process of decision-making and sometimes slack tide stalemates. I know this firsthand, having worked in the ocean conservation space for more than a decade now serving in roles from a park ranger to science communicator, and now director of advocacy for the Healthy Ocean Coalition, where my focus is on helping people build meaningful relationships with their members of Congress, including Sen. Susan Collins.

I have had the opportunity to meet with Sen. Collins and her staff many times, and while we may not always agree, we leave the door open for conversation and compromise. In my experience, she is one of the few Republicans who consistently takes meetings with constituents who care about climate change. It’s clear to me that she and her staff understand the intricate relationship between the changing climate and how it is already affecting the lives of Mainers.

Now, I am asking her to act. Sen. Collins has an opportunity to demonstrate what real leadership looks like by showing up and finalizing the government funding package, which includes many great climate provisions for our state. This bill should have been passed nearly three months ago when the fiscal year ended. Enough with the stop-gap measures. Enough with the political games.

This year, the process to fund our government is taking longer than it should, and it’s threatening to leave many pressing needs for Maine unaddressed. In addition to much-needed transportation and housing projects in our state, the bills contain over $35 million to benefit our ocean, our coasts and the communities that depend on them. This is a win-win for Maine’s environment and economy.

When funding bills were introduced earlier this year, Maine secured key victories all around. Particularly relevant to the times, these funding bills would significantly help our lobstering communities and right whales, with funds going to support planning and industry engagement regarding management measures to protect endangered right whales and preserve our iconic lobster industry. Like I said, win-win. There are even funds to cover costs paid for by the fishing industry to comply with the final 2021 rule to modify the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan and resources for North Atlantic right whale-related research, monitoring and conservation efforts.

Also included are projects that would significantly improve the health of Maine’s waterways, including a “forever chemical” treatment plan in Madison; rehabilitating aging sewer lines to reduce and possibly eliminate combined sewer overflows to the Penobscot River, and upgrades to a water treatment plant to remove pollutants in the water in Berwick.

While funding bills passed through the House, they remain stalled in the Senate. While Senate Democrats have released what they would like to see in funding, Senate Republicans are absent in their efforts.

Unfortunately, Republican senators are content to drag the process out, play politics and operate under last year’s budget, letting historic investments in our coastal communities and fisheries disappear. When it comes to our water, wildlife and environment in Maine, there’s no place to play politics. Sen. Collins must come to the table and help pass funding bills now.

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