April 19, 2013

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Should forest rangers carry guns?

The public hearing on LD 297, the bill that would arm Maine’s forest rangers, is set for Wednesday (April 24) at 1 p.m., at the State House, Room 436. We hope MFPC members will testify at the hearing or send their opinions to the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

The safety of forest rangers is very important to MFPC, so we have researched this issue thoroughly. We requested statistics and other information from the Maine Forest Service, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and the Maine Department of Labor and are happy to share them with you. We’ve also reviewed a study by Maine’s Ranger Safety Review Committee, which considered this issue carefully when the Legislature was asked to arm rangers in the late 1990s.

After careful consideration, MFPC will oppose LD 297 because:

  • Forest rangers already are armed with good sense, caution and the ability to anticipate when they should enlist back-up from state police, game wardens and local police officers.
  • As the Ranger Safety Review Committee concluded in 1998, forest rangers overall risk of serious injury or death is the same with or without guns.
  • Equipping, training and retraining rangers to carry guns would divert time and resources from their mission – protecting the forests of Maine.
  • Wearing a gun would change the relationship of trust and confidence that exists between Maine’s forest rangers and the public. We would rather change the job to further minimize risk, than see that trust and confidence diminish.

Maine legislators rejected bills to arm rangers by overwhelming margins in 1999, 2000 and 2001. We agree with those legislators and with Ron Lovaglio, former Conservation commissioner and current MFPC member, who opposed arming rangers, saying in 2000, “It’s not our mission to be a strike force. We have been unarmed since our beginning and we have done our job exceedingly well.”

In other legislative action:

With most of the Legislature taking the school holiday week off, there was very little activity this week except just a few committee meetings.

The amended Bonded Labor Equipment Ownership Rules that were approved last session could be jeopardized if the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee rejects LD 1259, the resolve that provides for legislative review of the rule changes, which were processed over the past year. That means we would return to landowner penalties, requirements for a industry supported clearing house, and unrealistic penalties for contractors using bonds. Please let members of the LCRED Committee know you are concerned about breaking the compromise reached last session.

In addition to the firearms and rangers bill, we will be focused next week on:

  • The ongoing discussions about the merger of the ACF department continues at a work session on LD 837, Wednesday, 1 p.m. at the State House, Room 127.
  • Managing the series of wind power bills that relate to land use: LDs 385,1147 and 1323.
  • Continuing to monitor LD 1177, An Act To Implement the Recommendations from the Discontinued and Abandoned Roads Stakeholder Group
  • LD 1356, An Act To Improve the Statutes Governing Road Associations, which has its public hearing in the Transportation Committee Friday at 9 a.m. in Room 126.

We will keep you posted on budget discussions (including BETR) and ongoing debates about workers compensation laws.

 Community guided planning efforts start Wednesday

On Wednesday, April 24, the Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) and Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC) will be holding the first meeting on the community guided planning and zoning project for unorganized territories and townships in Aroostook County. This will be the first of several meetings to determine overall regional interest and to develop a framework for the community guided planning and zoning process.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. at the Caribou Inn and Convention Centre in Caribou and is expected to end at about noon. The meeting is open to the public. There is a press release from NMDC which explains the project and the purpose of this first meeting in greater detail.

golf tournamentSign up for the MFPC 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.