State Rep. Robert Alley stands with veterans who are lawmakers to protect Maine, and America's public lands

As Veterans, who are Lawmakers we Stand United to protect America's Lands

Op-ed by Rep. Robert Alley, a Democrat, who represents House District 138. He serves on the Legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Marine Resources Committees.

From lobster fishing to hunting game in our wilderness, we know our way of life depends upon the health of our ecosystems. I’m proud to serve on the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Marine Resources Committees, where I fight to ensure we sustain our natural assets, as I did with recent law giving elver fishermen more flexibility while sustaining the resource. Certain fishery laws need updating and I’m working in Augusta on those issues.

As a former lobsterman I know how valuable the health of our coast is to the livelihoods of thousands of Mainers. The only way to achieve results is to work with others and that’s why I reach across the aisle to get things done for the good of all our citizens.

Protecting our coast is protecting our cultural heritage, and a way of life we can’t afford to lose. With temperatures on the rise our fishing industries are at risk. Scientists have found that our lobsters are slowly moving north because of the increase in the ocean’s temperature. Ocean acidification damages lobsters and hard shell delicacies, degrading their shells. But instead of protecting our natural resources, Secretary Zinke wants to drill of oil off our coast. 

If we don’t stand behind our natural resources, we risk losing them forever. That’s why I recently signed a letter with 79 other lawmakers who are veterans, in support of the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Since its establishment by Congress in 1964, the LWCF has been a bipartisan commitment that safeguards our natural areas, water resources, and cultural heritage.

In order for us to protect our natural resources we all must work together. Veterans don’t distinguish each other by what political party we are affiliated with, we all stand by and with our Constitution. That’s why I’m proud to stand with my brothers and sisters, who are lawmakers, in support of the LWCF.

All American’s need clean air and water.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund has provided both recreational opportunities to all Americans and has been a source of revenue for states and local governments. Many local projects have received LWCF funding.

Over the past 40-plus years, the LWCF program has provided more than $3.9 billion in grants funding projects in just about every county in the country.

In Washington County over $175,000 was granted  for the St. Croix Acquisition. Baileyville Municipal Park, the Quoddy Head Expansion, and the Gleason Point Boat Access all happened with LWCF grants. The list goes on and on. Over $27 million has been invested in Maine in all counties and the unorganized territories since 1968. Over $8.5 million has been granted to the state since 2002 alone. You’ve probably been to a park, nature reserve, beauty spot or veterans’ memorial that has been funded with LWCF grants. We enjoy kayaking, canoeing, swimming, picnicking, and just being able to relax in our parks, supported by LWCF funds.

A Bureau of Economic Analysis study found that the outdoor recreation contributes $887 billion and supports 7.6 million jobs across America. Every $1 of LWCF funds invested results in a return of $4 in economic value.

On the national stage generations of Americans have visited National parks. For many, these trips are annual pilgrimages connecting families with our country’s roots while creating lasting memories. Our land is intrinsic to who we are as a people.

Our 47,000-acre Acadia National Park with unsurpassed woodlands, rocky beaches and glacier-scoured granite peaks needs constant upkeep. LWCF supports all our National Parks and Monuments.

The LWCF is one of our most successful conservation programs because it draws on funds from offshore oil and gas royalties, not taxpayers, to expand, develop, and improve public lands for recreational areas, conservation, and the preservation of natural ecosystems. 

But now the LCWF is in jeopardy of not being reauthorized.

The bill supporting the LWCF was stalled in committee for over a year, being used as a political football. In September, a week after fellow EOPA veterans who are serving lawmakers visited Washington D.C. - where they called on seven U.S. Senators to educate them about the effort - the bill finally made it out of that committee. However, it still needs to be voted on. That's why we are urging Speaker Ryan to bring it to the floor for a vote.

LWCF needs reauthorization by Congress - now.

Our national parks, national forests, monuments, wildlife refuges and state projects are in jeopardy of being lost. We believe a strong showing of bipartisan support from state lawmakers, who are also veterans, can help Interior Secretary Zinke to support for reauthorization of the LWCF and thereby that of Congress.

My military brothers and sisters have banded together as lawmakers to stand with our country defending our public lands. I see my son fishing off our coast, making a modest honest living, following in a family tradition. His future, and that of all Mainers are at risk if we don't protect our natural world. Lend your voice to a cause for all our futures.