By Patrick Strauch, Executive Director
Discussions about the merger continued this week in both ACF and the Appropriations Committee as legislators debate the structure of the merged department while at the same time the budget is being worked on. Members of the Natural Resources Network (MFPC included) continues to support the structure of a department (see last newsletter) that creates essentially a governing cabinet of bureau directors sitting at the Commissioner’s table to discuss financial, operational and policy issues. It’s clear to me that the size of natural resource departments is not sustainable without some form of consolidation, and active participation in the process is essential. We hearing rumblings of internal department strife, but I would encourage employees to focus on a long-term structure that is best for Maine’s natural resource management. The ACF Committee will be meeting April 24, and I’ll keep you posted.
Other activity this week:
- LD 679, Resolve, Regarding the Management of Maine’s Brook Trout and Landlocked Salmon Resources. I’ve only been monitoring this issue, watching over the potential for regulating lakes on private land, but I’ve received many calls from members who perceive this bill as an affront to ice fishing in the northern watersheds. We will continue to monitor the discussions on this issue.
- LD 512, An Act To Allow Licensed Foresters To Use Mechanics Liens, was voted out as an anticipated divided report, but no more details are available yet.
- LD 1040, An Act To Prohibit the Placement of Cameras and Electronic Surveillance Equipment on Private Property without the Written Permission of the Landowner. This bill was amended and voted ought to pass. The council supported the bill.
- LD 1147, An Act to protect Maine’s Scenic Character. The Council testified in opposition to this bill on the basis of the precedents established for many activities on private land. It is clear that the expedited wind power act is under siege. I worry about the establishment of scenic standards that have far reaching implications for landowners. For example, the bill proposes a 30 mile protection zone for wind projects along the Appalachian Trail, Allagash Waterway, and other Scenic sites of local. State and national concern. MFPC will work with other interested parties to ensure regulations for wind power siting are balanced by private landowner rights.
- LD 1177, An Act To Implement the Recommendations from the Discontinued and Abandoned Roads Stakeholder Group. It became clear to me that the group that worked on the final report of the stakeholder process was not involved in the legislation that was presented in front of the State and Local Government committee. Many citizens relived their personal troubled histories with discontinued roads on their property and conflicts with users of the roads. There still needs to be a lot of work reconciling the report to the bill before MFPC can be supportive , but we will have the opportunity to stay involved in the legislative process as this bill will have numerous work session for review.
With unfinished bills and a budget still without answers, the legislature is taking next week of, with just a few committees meeting. The Review of Chapter 17 rules will be coming back to the Legislature as part of the substantive rule making process. These are the bonded labor equipment ownership rules that were resolved during the 125th legislature. We’ll keep you posted on how this session goes on Wednesday. Otherwise activity will be limited, but we’ll get you ready for the debate on Arming Forest Rangers with Guns.