Traditionally mid-summer is a slower time here at the Council, but this year has proven to be the exception! We are gearing up for our annual golf tournament in Bangor next week, which is now sold-out. Thanks to all of our sponsors and attendees for your continued support of our mission.
We’ve also been busy tracking a bill in Congress, authored by Congressman Jared Golden, that is of great concern. The bill, H.R. 6707, “Advancing Equity for Wabanaki Nations Act”, would dramatically change the jurisdictional framework between the State of Maine and Maine’s tribes that was put into place when the State passed the Maine Implementing Act and Congress enacted the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act in the 1980’s. As part of this original agreement, a patchwork of tribal lands was established that is unique to Maine tribes.
The Council is concerned because, if passed, this bill effectively eliminates the State of Maine, one of the three entities who entered into the original agreement (State, Tribes, feds), from the discussion on all federal tribal laws moving forward. This departure could easily result in a patchwork of environmental jurisdictions on shared resources such as air, water and wildlife resources that naturally traverse across Maine, causing regulatory uncertainty and significant red tape for the forest products mills and woodlands.
During the House Appropriations process, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree included H.R. 6707 into the Interior Appropriations Bill in Section 125. Both Governor Mills and the Council submitted letters against the inclusion of Section 125 (our letter is shown below), but unfortunately, this section was included despite the fact that the State was never informed or provided the opportunity to weigh in. When Congress passed the original settlement act, it insisted that all parties agree to the terms. We think Congress should not depart from that principle.
At this point, we believe it is still part of the Interior Appropriations bill. We have been in touch with Senator Collins and Senator King, and have asked for their assistance. We are hopeful that during the Senate Appropriations process, reference to H.R. 6707 in Section 125 will either be eliminated or significantly amended with all interested parties involved and at the table.
We are also now aware that an effort is also being made to also attach H.R. 6707 to H.R. 7900, the National Defense Authorization Act, which is before the House Rules Committee. It goes without saying that H.R. 6707 has nothing to do with national defense. The Council will be writing to the chair and ranking minority member of the Rules Committee objecting to this amendment. We will monitor the progress of H.R. 6707 as an amendment to this bill as well.
The Council strongly supports efforts to improve State/Tribal relations, however we don’t feel that it is possible to improve this dynamic without the involvement, input and consent of all parties involved, and we certainly object to changes that would result in increased litigation and regulatory uncertainty.
The Council is also monitoring the LUPC’s Draft Moosehead Regional Planning Package, and Maine DEP’s consideration of the Shawmut dam renewal application.
Finally, our staff is taking full advantage of this “quiet” time to visit members in the field, develop a policy document to guide the 131st Legislature and fact sheets for various sectors of our industry.
If you have any questions about the work we’re doing, please don’t hesitate to reach out to either Krysta or myself.