Humans have impacted the world to a degree where we have defined a geologic era, the Anthropocene. A hallmark of the Anthropocene is the current sixth mass extinction. This extinction is driven by habitat loss, habitat degradation and encroachment, climate change and ecological system failures. The resulting decline in biodiversity drives further ecosystem collapses and accelerates climate change, as biodiversity is key to carbon sequestration. To halt this extinction and its consequences, we must address habitat loss. LD 1246, in ensuring that endangered species habitat is considered “significant wildlife habitat” and thus protected from development, is one solution to the habitat loss issue.

It is particularly important to have a bill like this one in Maine because our boreal forests, some of the last in the country, house declining lynx, black bear, moose, Northern Goshawks and breeding warblers. Our brackish estuaries, rocky beaches and sunlit plains host threatened grassland and shoreline species such as upland sandpiper and piping plover. Tourists drive long distances to see northern species around Moosehead Lake and Katahdin. Birders from all across the country go to Maine for our famous birding festivals. This ecotourism is important to the economy of rural towns who no longer have paper mills or other factories for jobs.

Another endangered species that is important to both the environment and people is New England cottontail rabbits. They have a prominent role in the food chain as both herbivores and prey. Cottontails also protect communities from zoonotic diseases by eating ticks. The New England cottontail is a state endangered species because of habitat loss. LD 1246 would ensure that their habitat is considered when potential development is proposed.

LD 1246 is a key bill to protect Maine’s wildlife, carbon sequestration systems, ecological processes and conserve species that drive ecotourism.

Anna Siegel

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