Maine environmental coalition outline shared vision for prosperity

By Ramona du Houx - February 4th, 2011 · 

Maine's landscape is unique and needs protection. Photo by Ramona du Houx
As lawmakers grapple with the issues of economic growth and environmental protection, new voices are coming forward to say that Maine doesn’t have to sacrifice one for the other – that they actually go hand-in-hand. The Environmental Priorities Coalition held its 7th Annual Legislative Breakfast on Thursday, followed by a news conference with new allies to outline their shared vision for the path forward – what they are calling “Maine’s Trail Map to Prosperity” that will lead to new jobs, good health, clean energy, and the protection of Maine’s water, land, and wildlife.

Maureen Drouin, Executive Director of the Maine Conservation Voters Education Fund, stated, “We stand here today with Maine at a crossroads. No one would disagree that we need more good jobs in every corner of the state and more opportunities for our small businesses to grow and prosper. How we respond to this challenge will impact our future in significant ways. It will be tempting to take shortcuts and it will be easy to get off the trail, headed in the wrong direction. Every step we take must maintain our forward-thinking approach to natural resource stewardship and reflect the core values that Maine people hold dear.”

Chad Coffin, President of the Maine Clammers Association, highlighted the economic value of Maine’s environment. He remarked, “Last year clamming provided $13 million to Maine harvesters alone, and three times that amount to the Maine economy. This is a fishery that is essential to our economy, but without excellent water quality, 2,000 Maine clammers are out of business. Clamming is critically tied to a healthy environment. If our coastal waters are not clean, it’s impossible for all Maine fisheries, not just the clamming industry, to market the Maine brand.”

Three Maine legislators unveiled their recommendations for keeping Maine on the trail. Their legislation is being endorsed by the Environmental Priorities Coalition:

Senator David Trahan, a Republican from Waldoboro, is leading the effort to pass a Land for Maine’s Future Bond that could help create opportunities for trails, parks, farms, and fisheries.

Representative Stacey Fitts, a Republican from Pittsfield, has introduced what he calls the “Get Maine Off Oil Bill”, which would create clear goals for reducing Maine’s dependence on oil for transportation and heat.

Representative Melissa Walsh-Innes, a Democrat from Yarmouth, is spearheading efforts to get the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) out of baby bottles and sippy cups, as well as to get hazardous materials out of community landfills by strengthening Maine’s responsible recycling (aka product stewardship) laws.

Despite recent proposals to weaken Maine’s environmental standards, Drouin expressed confidence in the Maine Legislature. She added, “We believe a strong majority of Maine legislators have a very good sense of direction and are deeply connected to the environmental compass Maine people have provided. We are confident they will reject proposals that send us off the trail and get us lost on the road to nowhere. With their help and leadership, Maine will continue along the path to good health, good jobs, and the quality of life that Maine’s environment provides to all of us.”