April 26, 2013

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  Hearing about arming rangers is difficult, divisive

Emotions ran high and hot Wednesday on LD 297, a bill that would arm Maine’s forest rangers. In a hearing that lasted five hours, there were raised voices, insults followed by back-handed apologies, questions that shouldn’t have been asked and others that couldn’t be answered.

fp_logo“It’s one of those issues where you’re on one side or the other and that’s where you’re going to stay,” said Doug Denico, director of the Maine Forest Service (MFS). “It’s a really difficult subject.”

Opponents and supporters had the same goal – the safety of rangers – but supporters were certain that guns would make rangers safer and opponents were equally certain that guns would put them in more danger, because they would be called into more dangerous situations. Written testimony from 35 people, including 18 forest rangers, is posted online. Only a handful testified in opposition, including MFPC.

But it was what people asked, answered and expressed spontaneously that was most compelling. It also was troubling for people who usually work in harmony in the Maine woods to find themselves so divided. Read more.

Legislative update by Patrick Strauch

Guns and Rangers: Roberta’s coverage of the hearing is accurate, although it may be hard to believe. We will keep you posted as the work session comes up and we try to focus the debate on the facts. We’ll be working to make sure folks understand that the commercial forestry excise tax is not a pot of gold for funding guns.

ACF Merger: At the same time as the guns and rangers bill, there was a work session on the merger bill. Tom Abello from the Nature Conservancy did a great job describing his approval of the Natural Resource Network (NRN) proposal for the merger with TNC suggested revisions. Commissioner Whitcomb published an op-ed in the local papers promoting the synergies of a merged department. In response NRCM and Audubon, pointed out how incompatible conservation is with agriculture.

 I thought farmers, loggers and foresters were conservationists? I think NRCM and Audubon are ill informed and tried to suggest there is a world of difference between a production agriculture emphasis and a “conservation” philosophy within the current DOC.

 Cathy Johnson from NRCM managed to alienate our farming colleagues by explaining why forestry, conservation and agriculture are incompatible. It is pretty clear that some Democrats on the ACF Committee are in step with the NRCM version of the world and lack knowledge about our industry. We will work to correct that issue with our partners and will call on your assistance.

We testified neither for nor against LD 1323, An Act/A Regarding Wind Power Siting in the UT. We are concerned about differentiating between legislated and regional zoning responsibility. As proponents of LURC reform, we have promoted regional planning through the counties, but also believe there are state public policy concerns that should be treated more globally. I believe there will be an effort to consolidate the various wind power bills that are between the Energy and Natural Resources Committees.

 In the coming week we will be following:

  •  LD 1391, Resolve to provide a pesticide spraying notification process.
  • LD 1398, An Act to facilitate a pilot program for Sunday hunting for residents only
  • LD 1039, An Act to promote regulatory fairness (takings legislation).
  • LD 1059; LD 1302; 1323 Mining issues. See below.
  • LD 1228 Municipal cost components for the UT (UT Budget)

ALERT!  Landowners are needed to speak in opposition to the attempts to roll back mining regulations that were approved last session

Landowners who want to preserve opportunities for metals mining need to be proactive and speak to the Natural Resource Committee hearings this Monday at 9 a.m. The environmental organizations are organizing outreach and hoping to eliminate this opportunity for Maine to explore mining opportunities.
  • LD 1059, An Act to Protect Maine’s Enviroment and Natural Resources Jeopardized by Mining. This bill repeals the improved mining laws made in 2012.
  • LD 1302, An Act to Amend the Maine Metallic Mining Act to Protect Water Quality. This bill tinkers with the recently amended laws and stands for water quality before the rules are written. We believe we should have the rule draft currently being prepared by the DEP before we change standards. When the rule is presented we can debate all the components in a comprehensive manner.
  • LD 1324, An Act to Protect Communities When a Mining Project is Terminated. This provision restores the mining oversight fund which was changed in the recent legislation.

All of these bills reflect actions that revisit the policy debate that revised the law to establish a realistic set of regulations that could be built around sound environmental protections and state of the art technology. The original rules were designed to discourage mine development. We should stay the course and continue drafting rules based on the comprehensive reform in 2012, and participate in the upcoming rule-making process.

Sign up for the MFPC golf tournament!golf tournament

You don’t want to miss this opportunity to have fun and catch up with your friends. Please join us at at the Bangor Municipal Golf Course on July 18. Learn more.