June 17, 2019

Maine Conservation Bond Issue: Stop Whining For Crying Out Loud

There is a proposal in the Maine Legislature to issue a bond to buy land for conservation. This proposal (only a proposal) is LD911. If this proposal passes the Legislature (two-thirds of BOTH Houses) it will then go before the VOTERS in the following November general election. There is nothing new here. This is the legislative procedure for ALL bond issuance elections.

Because there are whiners who hate hunting, trapping, and fishing, they take issue with this bond claiming it usurps local control, along with bitching and complaining that hunters and trappers are the most vocal groups in the state and always get what they want, blah, blah, blah.

The writer of the piece linked to above claims that the wording of the proposed bond issue is deliberately misleading the public by not telling voters that if the Land For Maine’s Future buys land to protect and conserve, the land will have to be open to the public for all access, including hunting, trapping, fishing.

The wording of the proposed bond issue (which can be changed during the Legislative debate process) is as follows: “Do you favor a $95,000,000 bond issue to invest in state parks and historic sites, land conservation, water access, wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation opportunities, including hunting and fishing, farmlands and working waterfronts to be matched by at least $75,000,000 in private and public contributions?” (emboldening added)

It’s not as though the emboldened words were not included in the bond proposal. However, any whiner could object to this bond being used “unfairly” for state parks, historic sites, water access and any other State of Maine requirement stated in law. Sometimes we have to be grownups and deal with such things as sharing the land and not opening it up to preferred ideological uses.

I fail to see how there is any attempt at concealing from the public that public money used to buy public lands is open to hunting, trapping, and fishing…along with a myriad of other uses (no complaints about that?)

There is a process in place and the issuance of bonds is no new thing. Nothing is hidden, and in this case, LD 911 is rightly available for any voter to read…all the “fine print” that to the writer of the commentary seems to be misleading or hiding information from the public.

Or maybe the writer is hoping all readers will just believe his words and not bother to go read the entire proposal (It takes about 10 minutes if you are slow reader like me.)

Because, if you go read the proposed bond wording you’ll discover such things as, “Hunting, fishing, trapping and public access may not be prohibited on land acquired with bond proceeds, except to the extent of applicable state, local or federal laws, rules and regulations…” (emboldening added)

Oh, oops! Seems that local governments do have rights and some control as it may pertain to “dodging bullets.” But, there is no more local control than a voter going to the polls and actually casting a ballot that would, as a democratic collective, decide whether any purchase of public land MIGHT negatively affect them. You love your democracy, now live with it!

State law requires that when, through Land for Maine’s Future purchases, certain percentages of that money and purchase must be used for such things as protecting working waterfronts, protecting farmland, and public access to water, among others. The writer also forgot to tell his readers that in this particular bond issue the state MUST give preferential treatment to the purchase of deer wintering habitat to protect deer. Listening to the writer one would think that this money was only going to be used so hunters can kill more deer.

Like with any election and voting process, the onus of knowing what you are voting on should fall into the lap of the voter. As I said, nothing is completely hidden and anyone who actually cares will read the “fine print” and make their decisions on that and not on some anti-hunting activist.

Now that you have heard the truth of the issue and have been given a link to the bond proposal to read, you now have to decide whether it is a good thing to give the state more land to control, thus controlling you, while removing that land from the tax rolls and placing a larger burden of taxes on you the voter.

Think about that one for awhile.

Share

Maine Governor Eating a Bit of Crow

LePage1

LePage2

Share

LePage’s bond freeze jeopardizes the economy of Somerset County

LepageMess*Editor’s Note* – Perhaps all is not lost in this effort to convince Governor LePage to change his mind. It seems that from the author of this piece, any hopes of anything worthwhile lies in the lap of Plum Creek and the deal that was struck for the Cold Stream project. It seems that Plum Creek negotiated this deal while in the midst of negotiating a deal with Weyerhaeuser. Does this mean Weyerhaeuser automatically drops the deal? Why would they? What is the reason that Plum Creek worked on this deal? Public relations might be a big reason. If Weyerhaeuser is buying up land and moving into Maine for the first time, perhaps in their effort to start off on the right foot, would be willing to propose an even better deal for the Maine people.

I know the old saying of “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” I wonder though if anyone involved in the negotiations with Plum Creek on the Cold Stream project, has made an attempt to contact Weyerhaueser to begin talks?

It seems that it is a better deal to sew up this agreement before the sale to Weyerhaueser, but if it doesn’t, better things might be ahead.

But, if it’s strictly about The Forks’ economy, and the author tells us that Weyerhaueser historically sells hunting leases (which can be big money), then the big money might come to the Big Woods. Then, businesses will have their dollars and the Maine sportsmen will be just plain hung out to dry.

“The Department of Conservation and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife shall take a proactive approach to pursuing land conservation projects that include significant wildlife habitat conservation, including conservation of deer wintering areas.”

As a direct result of this new law, the Cold Stream Project, one of the greatest conservation projects of my lifetime, was developed and proposed for the West Forks region. Working with Plum Creek and the Trust for Public Land, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry negotiated a deal that would sell 8,153 acres of critical wildlife habitat to the state, including 3,000 acres of prime deer wintering habitat, 30 miles of trout spawning streams and nine undeveloped ponds. This gem surrounds West Forks and would forever be managed for wildlife and guaranteed traditional public access.

Then, last year, Gov. Paul LePage announced that he would hold hostage Cold Stream and more than 30 other approved Land for Maine’s Future projects, representing more than $10 million in conservation bonds approved by voters, until the Legislature agreed to allow more aggressive cutting on public lands and until they appropriated $5 million generated from cutting trees to pay for his new, still undefined, home heating program.

Source: LePage’s bond freeze jeopardizes the economy of Somerset County – Central Maine

Share

David Trahan and Gerry Lavigne On a $5 Million Bond to Protect Winter Deer Yards

The Bangor Daily News carries an opinion piece coauthored by David Trahan, Executive Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine(SAM), and Gerry Lavigne, former deer biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife(MDIFW) and member of SAM. The piece is a call to the governor, the Legislature and voters of Maine to pass LD852, a $5 million bond to fund Land for Maine’s Future.

For readers to better understand exactly what this means as it pertains to protecting deer wintering areas, first please consider the Summary as provided in LD852:

The funds provided in this bond issue are to recapitalize the Land for Maine’s Future program with $36,000,000 to continue Maine’s land conservation efforts, leveraging a minimum of $36,000,000 in required matching funds. It provides $12,000,000 for natural resource industry based infrastructure improvements and enhancement related to natural resource industry and to provide capital for state park maintenance and improvements. It also gives land conservation projects that protect and enhance deer wintering habitat preference and directs the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the Department of Conservation to pursue projects that protect and conserve deer wintering habitat(emboldening added).

I would strongly suggest that all voters thorough read and understand LD852 before voting on it. Below is part of LD852 which speaks of disbursement of funds if the bond is passed. I’ve highlighted some key points as it relates to protection of deer yards.

Sec. 5. Disbursement of bond proceeds. The proceeds of the bonds must be expended as set out in this Act under the direction and supervision of the Executive Department, State Planning Office; the Department of Conservation; the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources; and the Department of Marine Resources.

1. The proceeds of the bonds for the Land for Maine’s Future Board as set out in section 6 must be expended by the Executive Department, State Planning Office for acquisition of land and interest in land for conservation, water access, outdoor recreation, wildlife and fish habitat, farmland preservation in accordance with the provisions for such acquisitions under the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 5, chapter 353 and working waterfront preservation in accordance with the terms of this Act, including all costs associated with such acquisitions, except that use of the proceeds of these bonds is subject to the following conditions and requirements.

A. Hunting, fishing, trapping and public access may not be prohibited on land acquired with bond proceeds, except to the extent of applicable state, local or federal laws, rules and regulations and except for working waterfront projects and farmland protection projects.

B. Payment from bond proceeds for acquisitions of local or regional significance, as determined by the Land for Maine’s Future Board, may be made directly to cooperating entities as defined in Title 5, section 6201, subsection 2 for acquisition of land and interest in land by cooperating entities, subject to terms and conditions enforceable by the State to ensure its use for the purposes of this Act. In addition to the considerations required under Title 5, chapter 353, the board shall give a preference to acquisitions under this paragraph that achieve benefits for multiple towns and that address regional conservation needs including public recreational access, wildlife, open space and farmland.

C. The bond funds expended for conservation, recreation, farmland and water access must be matched with at least $36,000,000 in public and private contributions. Seventy percent of that amount must be in the form of cash or other tangible assets, including the value of land and real property interest acquired by or contributed to cooperating entities, as defined in Title 5, section 6201, subsection 2, when property interests have a direct relationship to the property proposed for protection, as determined by the Land for Maine’s Future Board. The remaining 30% may be matching contributions and may include the value of project-related, in-kind contributions of goods and services to and by cooperating entities.

D. Of the bond proceeds allocated to the Land for Maine’s Future Board, $4,000,000 must be made available to protect farmland in accordance with Title 5, section 6207.

E. Of the bond proceeds allocated to the Land for Maine’s Future Board, $4,000,000 must be made available to protect working waterfront properties in accordance with Public Law 2005, chapter 462, Part B, section 6.

F. Because portions of the State have deer populations that are struggling and deer wintering habitat protection is vital to the survival and enhancement of these populations, projects that conserve and protect deer wintering areas are considered to have special value and must receive preferential consideration during scoring of new applications for support under Title 5, section 6200, et seq.

2. The proceeds of the bonds for the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources must be expended on agricultural infrastructure improvements.

3. The Department of Conservation and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife shall take a proactive approach to pursuing land conservation projects that include significant wildlife habitat conservation, including conservation of deer wintering areas. The departments shall include in conservation negotiations under this section provisions for the appropriate management of deer wintering areas. The proceeds of the bonds for the Department of Conservation must be expended as follows.

A. Two million dollars allocated to the Maine Forest Service must be used for forestry infrastructure improvements.

B. Two million dollars allocated to the Bureau of Parks and Lands must be used for public recreation infrastructure improvements.

C. Four million dollars allocated to the Bureau of Parks and Lands must be used to preserve state parks and lands managed by the Department of Conservation.

4. The proceeds of the bonds for the Department of Marine Resources must be expended on commercial fishing infrastructure improvements.

5. To the extent the purposes are consistent with the disbursement provisions in this Act, 100% of the bond proceeds may be considered as state match for any federal funding to be made available to the State.

Yesterday, I shared some thoughts on this subject.

Tom Remington

Share

Perhaps Maine Approaches Game Management as a Hobby

There’s an old expression that I learned perhaps 55 years ago about doing something in a pot or getting off it. I’m beginning to wonder if the State of Maine, specifically the office of governor and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) approaches the entire functional aspect of fish and wildlife management as nothing more than a hobby. The present governor promised to rebuild the deer herd. The present commissioner at MDIFW promised to rebuild the deer herd. Maine government devised a plan to rebuild the deer herd and nothing has been done to rebuild the deer herd. I think it’s time to do something in that pot or get off it and put the pot away.

We are in tough times. There’s no doubt about it. Maine’s governor, Paul LePage, is doing what he thinks is best to reduce wasteful spending, something that must be done, and so it’s a big pill to swallow in any attempts to convince the taxpayers that borrowing and spending more money is in the best interest of all. So, the question for deer hunters becomes: Is spending money now or in the immediate future a good investment for all of Maine?

George Smith, a journalist, blogger and former executive director for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, beats a steady drum. Agree with him or not, when he latches onto an issue he remains persistent until the issue is dead……and then some more. His latest attack has to do with funding Land for Maine’s Future(LMF), a governmental program that, “seeks to conserve lands that have exceptional recreational or ecological value along with working lands for farms, forests, tourism, and working waterfronts.”

Smith says the Land for Maine’s Future program is broke and he has a problem with the governor’s dislike of spending money by saying, “Governor Paul LePage’s antipathy to bonding is well known”. Smith sees this as a problem because he wants money to fund LMF in order to buy up and protect deer wintering forest areas.

In Maine’s Game Plan for Deer, one of the many things identified that contributed to the demise of the whitetail deer herd, is the loss of habitat, specifically deer wintering areas (DWA). Smith wants the $5 million bond issue to pass to fund LMF in order to buy up DWAs to protect deer.

This is probably a good idea but I am not aware of anyone, at least with any position of legislative authority or otherwise, who has come up with a plan of just how we are going to convince private land owners to sell off a deer yard that happens to sit in the middle of their property? Smith even says, “No landowner is going to sell the state a stand-alone deeryard.” Not to be accused of taking Smith out of context, he also stated that the habitat surrounding a deer yard is important as well, implying all of the land, inside and out, of the deer yard areas need protecting.

With a deer management plan, that contains no specific information about how it is going to protect deer habitat, is it then prudent to bond out $5 million to LMF, with the target goal for that expenditure deer yards in Maine?

Personally, I would like to see two things happen. One, I want to see a viable plan worked out between the State of Maine and private landowners about how a program could function that would, hopefully, provide for the needs of both parties. Once a workable plan is in place, that is one that isn’t Marxist by nature, strong-arming landowners to give up land or else, then let’s proceed with the funding. The only way money should be appropriated for this action is only AFTER a majority of private landowners, i.e. those who own the deer yards needing protection, have agreed to such a plan.

Secondly, I think there are things that can be done right now that will have an immediate effect on the deer herd, if and when the governor’s office and MDFIW makes a real commitment to it. So far, the people, even though they were promised during those dreadful campaign days, have seen nothing. Should I put that in all capitals? NOTHING!

Here’s the deal, in case you really haven’t caught on yet. Campaign rhetoric is cheap. Anyone can spew it and all do. Why we insist in getting caught up in it is a lesson that might never be learned. The only thing any of us can ever get out of it is to throw it back in the politician’s face that he or she lied. Big deal! They all do it because we let them. These days the end always justifies the means.

So the governor, in this case Mr. LePage, gets elected and as is the usual case, promises are forgotten and he hires an expert to make excuses for his lack of action. But this case puzzles me a bit. Governor LePage pushed for this Game Plan for Maine’s Deer. Why? Is this a double entendre? Perhaps political naivete to offer twice a broken promise? A lack of a commitment brought on by the absence of understanding money would be needed? Or perhaps the governor and his cohorts didn’t fully examine the deer hunting industry and whether it was an investment worth the money and the commitment? Or, maybe something else.

I’ve written a few times about this lack of engagement at all levels of the State of Maine; HERE, HERE, HERE. I am assuming, which might be a mistake, that before the Governor and MDIFW made a public announcement of their commitment to rebuild Maine’s deer herd, they crunched some numbers and explored all aspects of the hunting industry in order to decide whether or not declaring “all in” was an investment that was responsible and in the best interest of the people of Maine. Why would you do it anyway?

If it has been determined, again I’m assuming here, that it was a worthy investment and the Governor made a public announcement, twice actually, of his “commitment” to rebuild the deer herd, then where is this commitment? It’s not like the economic difficulties that Maine and the rest of the nation experience crept up on us overnight.

If there is no concentration of effort, including funding, then either the Governor and MDIFW knowingly misled the voters and hunters because they knew, specifically the Governor, that he would not fund any effort to save the deer herd. In other words, he was placating the voters and again the sportsmen with his hollow promises.

Therefore, without any further explanation available that I am aware of from MDIFW or the Governor’s office, I am left believing that the MDIFW is an expensive hobby and is promoted as such from the Governor’s office. The only commitment that I see is to keep enough funding going to pay a lot of salaries, the most of which have nothing to do with management of game species. This is an expensive hobby. I have contributed a lot of money over the years, as have hundreds of thousands of others, to support this hobby.

It is time to get off the pot because obviously nothing is being put into the pot. If the Governor and MDIFW cannot see the deer hunting industry as viable enough to warrant investment, surely my money should not fund a department in which I no longer have a vested interest. The governor and MDIFW can go play with their wildlife on their own time and money.

Tom Remington

Share