Land for Maine's Future Out of Gas
This week the legislature considers Governor Paul LePage’s three nominees for the Land for Maine’s Future. All three are exceptional. This is an “A” team, but we’re putting them into a race car that is out of gas – with nobody in the pit to fill up the tank or change the tires.
Don Marean, the current LMF Board chair, is being renominated for another term. The other two nominees will be new board members. Don is anchored to the land, as a horse farmer, and that’s an important attribute for an LMF member. He’s also a very thoughtful leader, a person who works well with others. And it’s always helpful to have the perspective of a former legislator on this important board.
Bill Vail was an exceptional Commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner. But he distinguished himself from all other commissioners when he resigned that position because he could not support his governor’s attempt to take $1 million from his department. That’s the kind of integrity Bill will bring to the LMF Board.
Jim Gorman is LL Bean’s grandson – and of course, he’s an avid hunter and angler. I always like to introduce Jim by saying he works at his family’s business. But many do not know that Jim is the only person who served on the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine’s Board for my entire 18 years as the group’s executive director. At the beginning and again at the end of my tenure, Jim was SAM’s President.
While I grabbed the limelight, Jim was always there in the background, providing excellent advice, displaying strong leadership of the board, and forging a collaborative relationship that allowed all of us to work together. We achieved a lot and Jim deserves much of the credit.
Maine has led the nation in land conservation and the LMF program is one key reason. Since it was created in 1987, LMF has conserved 550,000 acres, using an average of $4.78 million annually in state funding, for an average cost of just $113 per acre.
A recent economic analysis by The Trust for Public Land found that every $1 invested in land conservation through LMF returned an astonishing $11 in natural goods and services to the Maine economy. And that return increases every year.
Unfortunately, the single staff position dedicated to the LMF program was recently eliminated, and the program is nearly out of money. The legislature is considering a new LMF bond issue, in a very competitive field of bond proposals. There is quite a bit of interest in dedicating any new LMF money to the purchase of deer yards – a key component of the state’s plan to rebuild the deer herd and rescue our outdoor economy, now in a tailspin.
Many are unaware that potential LMF funded projects are rated higher if they include deeryards, and LMF has already purchased 15,000 acres of deeryards. No landowner is going to sell the state a stand-alone deeryard. Nor is the deeryard sufficient to sustain deer – surrounding habitat is also important. So they don’t really need to restrict LMF funding to deeryards to get this part of the job done. Been there. Doing that.
What they must do is restore the LMF staff position and give the program some gas. Otherwise, Marean, Vail, Gorman, and the other LMF Board members will be unable to keep this key economic and conservation vehicle on the track and in the race.