Maine’s brand name has gained an international reputation, according to a survey conducted by Anholt State Brands Index. The governor certified Maine lobster, adding value to the resource in Portland, Maine in August, 2006. Photo by Ramona du Houx August/September 2006 by Ramona du Houx Maine was in danger of losing its natural resource base. Without sustainable measures in place, […]
Maine’s brand name has gained an international reputation, according to a survey conducted by Anholt State Brands Index. The governor certified Maine lobster, adding value to the resource in Portland, Maine in August, 2006. Photo by Ramona du Houx
by Ramona du Houx
Maine was in danger of losing its natural resource base. Without sustainable measures in place, resources were being used up and not replenished. For more than 25 years Maine’s natural resource industries had largely been ignored by administrations. That would no longer be the case with Governor Baldacci.
Developing plans for what works best in Maine requires knowledge, perspective, and vision. To be able to grow the economy while sustaining the state’s natural resources for future generations was a challenge Governor Baldacci embraced. Step by step he has been implementing plans that are moving Maine forward in the new economy, building upon Maine’s natural resources.
As a U.S. congressman he saw the problems. Maine’s natural resources were being shipped around the world to be packaged and processed. It was obvious to him that the state needed to help entrepreneurs see that adding value to those resources here at home would be more profitable — and done right would help sustain those resources — and grow Maine’s economy.
“Maine’s natural resources are the bases of a sizable portion of Maine’s economy,” said the governor. “My administration chooses to focus on them because in order to have economic growth and healthily economies in rural parts of the state, much of that economic activity is going to be based on natural resources.”
Governor Baldacci ensured that the results of the commission that started with the Blaine House Conference on Maine’s Natural Resource-Based Industries in 2003 would take effect. The comprehensive plan to strengthen Maine’s natural resource-based business is showing gains, and has been aided by the FERMATA study on tourism, the Future Forest Economy Project, the Maine Certification Initiative, the 2005 State of the Forest Report, and the 100-Mile Wilderness Economic Study.
The Resource-Based Industries Steering Committee set five priorities:
• Preserve the industry’s access to their land and water resources.
• Increase the consumption of local Maine foods.
• Preserve working waterfronts.
• Single out Maine’s “green” paper and forest products in the marketplace, and
• Take advantage of the profitable, niche markets that nature tourism offers.
“Tourism is an increasingly competitive industry around the world. I am committed to making the investments necessary to keep Maine high on the list of places that folks from away just have to visit in order to appreciate all that we have to offer,” said the governor.
“This industry is not only important for our livelihoods, but it is also an important part of our heritage.”
The governor created the Center for Tourism Research and Outreach to help hospitality businesses in training and destination development.
His administration retained FERMATA, a specialized agency in tourism, to assess Maine’s opportunities in nature-based tourism, one of the fastest growing niches in the nation’s travel industry, and to develop a plan for Maine’s rural tourism needs.
“More families are looking for educational, thematic vacations in nature,” said Jeffrey Sosnaud, deputy commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, “vacations that take you along historic trails, searching for eagles, or canoeing. There are so many possibilities here in Maine, and we intend to make the most of them.”
Three pilot project regions, the Western Mountains, the Highlands, and Downeast, will be utilized as models for implementation of the plan throughout rural Maine.
Under the Baldacci administration, the Bureau of Parks & Lands has made significant recreational land acquisitions. Among these acquisitions are two former rail lines, one of them in Machias. At the governor’s authorization, the Maine Department of Transportation is developing a corridor management plan for the Calais Branch Line that will preserve it for future rail use, but also make it available in the interim as a mixed-use recreational trail.
“This has been a long time coming, but proves that persistence and good partners make dreams come true,” said Sally Jacobs of the Sunrise Trail Coalition, who has worked with Governor Baldacci toward establishment of the trail during that time. “The governor has been great.”
The project should be a major step to bring more opportunities into the Downeast region. Tourists should venture further into the area, as the trail will extend to the Acadia National Park trail network.
“The corridor is a vast resource,” Governor Baldacci said. “It gives the area a strong foundation for ecotourism to take off.”
Consultants determined the trail could generate an additional $11.3 million in tourism funds for the state.
“It clearly will be an economic boost to the area. It also will connect the rest of the state to the 800 miles of snowmobile trails that already exist in Washington County,” said Transportation Commissioner Cole.
Other rail trail initiatives are happening across the state.
In 2004 tourism generated $13.6 billion in sales and provided 176,600 jobs in Maine, according to data gathered by Longwoods International, a Canadian travel research firm, and the state’s tourism office. “2005 was a very good year,” said Dann Lewis, the state’s tourism director. The state’s tourism office credited better marketing and promotion, and good weather for the increase.
Governor Baldacci introduced legislation to eliminate the practice of “liquidation harvesting.” Clearcutting leads to deforestation and increases global warming while using up an important natural resource. Under the new laws liquidation harvesting is being eliminated in Maine.
At the governor’s request the Maine Forest Service recently completed the Future Forest Economy Project, the most comprehensive look at forestry-based industries in the state’s history. Its recommendations are assisting government and industry transition with the challenges of the global economy.
The governor also asked the small business administration to develop a program specific to loggers, to help them with specialized business skills and access to loans.
“More than 7 million acres, or 40 percent of our working forest, is certified as sustainably managed … and that’s good for the environment and the economy,” said the governor.
Shortly after taking office, Baldacci established the Maine Forest Certification Initiative. As a result Maine now leads the nation in certified acreage. The governor’s goal is 10 million acres to be certified by 2010. Tom Howard of Domtar Industries said from 2004 to 2005 Domtar’s sales doubled.
Recently Domtar, which makes certified pulp in Maine, announced a “green” line of paper made from certified fiber harvested in Maine.
The demand for certified wood products is ever growing — worldwide. Time Inc., L.L.Bean, and Staples have set targets for the amount of fiber to come from forests certified as being sustainably managed, which directly increases market demand for Maine paper. Maine is the second leading producer of pulp and paper in the country.
“Consumers are demanding more products from certified wood. As I talk to paper mills, they are telling me that places like Nike and Time Magazine will not buy their paper for advertising unless it is made from certified wood,” said the governor.
“Our builders and developers are asking us about a certified product. Our customers want it, so we are gladly providing it. We have started a path where all wood building materials brought to market will be green certified. Eventually it will be the norm,” said Kevin Hancock. “We’re really excited about the hard work and the leadership the governor has provided.”
His company, Hancock Lumber, was the first Maine Company to receive Forest Stewardship Council certification, for a lumberyard last July. The governor congratulated them during a ceremony at their lumberyard in Brunswick.
“If this were our midterm grade on forest certification, we would have been given an A,” said Patrick McGowan, commissioner of the Department of Conservation. “This is not a self-grade; this is a grade that has been given by speaking with industry leaders.”
Alec Giffen, director of the Maine Forest Service, called Governor Baldacci a “powerhouse” behind the effort of forest certification.
Maine has become a national leader in sustainable, managed woodlands.
Through bond initiatives, the continued research conducted at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland and expansions in Maine’s university system are strengthening Maine’s fishing and aquaculture development potential.
Recognizing that working waterfronts are in danger of being bought up by developers, $2 million was allocated from the budget and put into the Land for Maine’s Future fund, which will purchase wharfs and waterfront buildings, to help preserve the working waterfronts for future generations. Applications are now being received for this new program.
Maine’s lobster catch last year represented nearly two thirds of the total annual U.S. American lobster catch. In 2005 nearly 63 million pounds of lobster, valued at $289.7 million, was caught by Maine lobstermen.
In August Governor Baldacci tagged the first “Certified Maine Lobster” at the Portland Pier. The Maine Lobster Promotions Council created the brand and logo which informs consumers that their lobster came from the waters of Maine.
“Maine’s identity is so closely associated with lobsters that when you tell someone from out of state where you’re from, the next words out of their mouth usually will include the word ‘lobster’,” said Governor Baldacci. “And then of course they ask if you can get them some, wholesale.”
Anyone in marketing knows that it will make a difference on the balance sheet for Maine businesses, having lobster caught in Maine waters certified from Maine. By giving the lobster the brand Maine name, it markets the crustacean that is sold as a delicacy around the world. Having Maine lobster on famous restaurant menus creates more demand.
While in Bulgaria the governor came across a restaurant serving Maine lobster which cost close to eighty dollars, but there wasn’t any way to prove that it was indeed a lobster from Maine. “Now we can,” said the governor. “The certified Maine lobster program protects our reputation as having the best tasting lobster in the world.”
“This is to help the guys that pull in the traps, the middleman, the restaurants, and the lucky guy that in the end gets to eat it,” said Bob Putnam, a lobster harvester from Chebeague Island.
“We’re protecting the jobs of the lobstermen, their families and the people that depend on them for industry and commerce, because we’re making sure that the lobsters being consumed are certified Maine lobsters,” said Governor Baldacci. “Maine means value. By putting it together with lobsters, we are enhancing the value and protection of that resource. It’s about protecting a traditional Maine industry — a way of life.”
The new marketing strategy should also encourage more entrepreneurs to package and prepare Maine lobsters in Maine.
In November, 2005, Governor Baldacci reopened the Embden Fish Hatchery. The redesigned hatchery will produce roughly four times as many fish as the old facility. That’s 100,000 pounds of trout and landlocked salmon a year.
“The bond passed in 2002 has provided for the improvements to this facility. Investing in our natural resources improves our economy,” said the governor.
The increase of fish in Maine’s lakes and streams that have been raised at hatcheries around the state encourages anglers to return.
“That increase will help sustain our environment, keep anglers happy, and boost tourism,” said Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Roland D. Martin. “This is an area that is poised for growth.”
According to a University of Maine study, anglers have an economic impact of over $300 million a year.
When the governor came to office, the salmon aquaculture industry in Washington County and elsewhere was in decline, caused by low prices, a number of environmental issues that companies had gotten into, and a fish disease.
Since then Cooke Agriculture has acquired a number of agricultural sites in the state and has invested over $25 million in redeveloping and reactivating those sites, which is creating jobs in rural areas.
Cooke Agriculture has revitalized the Oquossoc hatchery in Rangeley, which was slated for closure, they recently acquired the necessary environmental permits to continue operating the hatchery in Washington County and they invested in the Bingham hatchery.
Cooke now has ten operational aquaculture sites stocked with salmon in the Eastport and Machiasport areas. The company said that by fall it will have introduced more than 3 million smolt into its salmon farms.
In September Cooke announced it will invest $60 million in stocking salmon in Maine waters over the next 18 months, creating more jobs for the aquaculture industry. Governor Baldacci was at the Washington County Community College’s Marine Trades Center when the New Brunswick company made the announcement.
“This company was named one of the top 50 best managed companies in Canada. This company is committed to the resource, to this region, and to the state of Maine,” said the governor. “We couldn’t have a better partnership.”
Early on, the governor developed a good working relationship with Cooke and has visited their facilities in Nova Scotia. Cooke Aquaculture is the only company currently farming salmon in the state.
“Cooke is looking to build up the volume of salmon being raised in Maine in order to reopen the processing facilities. Their investment in Maine will bring employment levels in the aquaculture industry in Washington County back where they should be,” said Commissioner of the Department of Economic Development Jack Cashman. “In time they will be the largest employer in Washington County.”
When the governor came to office, the dairy industry was in crisis. Milk prices had plummeted, and some farmers were thinking about getting out of the industry. Many sought help from the state government. Instead of applying a quick fix, the governor decided to take the needed time to develop a sustainable plan for Maine’s dairy industry.
“The governor found money in a very tight budget to tide dairy farmers over for several months while his Dairy Task Force developed a comprehensive set of initiatives that would have the benefit of providing a long-term support for the dairy industry,” said Dick Davis, senior policy advisor to the governor. “As a result we came up with a tiered dairy subsidy program that has been implemented and funded. It has become the envy of the dairy industry throughout the county. Now, Maine’s dairy industry is stabilized. There are resources flowing into dairy farmers’ pockets, and new dairy farms are being established in the state, in places like Washington County.”
Various agricultural initiatives promote buying local food, publicizing farmers’ markets, getting local restaurants and hotels to buy locally grown foods and Made in Maine specialty products. The state’s Get Real — Get Maine program promotes how buying locally helps community, saves transportation costs, and enhances the “Maine experience” for visitors to the state.
The Maine Restaurant Association promotes the Maine Menu Month, building awareness among residents and tourists of locally raised food and restaurants featuring them.
A new law directs the state’s agricultural department to help expand the use of local food in schools and government.
A $1 million bond that passed last November will help farmers build ponds and other irrigation sources. Access to water sources has been a major issue for farmers.
Maine agricultural products are being sold internationally. Export deals worth $20 million came out of trade missions to Cuba, with dairy cattle, potatoes, maple syrup, and wood products.
Because of the governor’s Pine Tree Zone benefits, a major state-of-the-art 24-acre greenhouse was erected in Madison. The US Functional Foods facility will initially employ 74 people, and grow tomatoes year round for the New England market. High-tech greenhouses like this one potentially could become the norm for Maine’s agricultural business. “Maine could become the breadbasket of the Northeast,” said Jack Cashman, commissioner of the Department of Economic Development.
Land Preservation & Land for Maine’s Future—
In three years Maine completed land conservation projects totaling more than 750,000 acres. “Governor Baldacci has done more than any other governor for the environment since Percival Baxter,” stated Commissioner of the Department of Conservation, Patrick McGowan.
“The Land for Maine’s Future projects represent strategic investments in Maine’s economic future while conserving our natural heritage,” stated the governor. “These conserved lands are a part of the state’s economic infrastructure. Tourism businesses depend on conservation efforts. We protect livelihoods when we protect our land.”
In 1987, when the people of Maine strongly voiced their desire for the state to designate Maine’s places of natural beauty and historic value as a public trust for everyone to enjoy, Commissioner McGowan and Governor Baldacci were serving in Maine’s Legislature. Due to changing land use and development, Maine was at risk of losing these areas of natural beauty, its cultural heritage and economic vitality. Answering the people’s request, the Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) program was enacted into law.
Last November voters approved $12 million to replenish the Land for Maine’s Future program. The LMF seal of approval and funding helps to ensure philanthropic support. By requiring at least a one-third match of private funds for the public funds expended, the LMF program has successfully leveraged more than $50 million from other sources, including private and federal dollars, for other projects. LMF has protected close to 200,000 acres.
The Machias River Project is a great example of how the program works. The Conservation Fund was able to purchase nearly 7,700 acres from International Paper for more than $6.8 million, in Downeast Maine, because they were working with the Department of Conservation and the LMF program.
“This project demonstrates the incredible power of partnerships,” said Larry Selzer, president of the Conservation Fund, whose land acquisition will protect the headwaters of the Machias River, preserving the river’s recreational value, salmon habitat, and 11 rare plant and animal species, while ensuring that the surrounding working forest remains productive.
“Conservation of areas such as this is key to continued growth in the outdoor recreation economy, while also providing jobs in the forest products industry,” said Baldacci.
Katahdin Lake Project —
The Katahdin Lake Project is a boon for ecotourism while protecting Maine’s natural treasure for future generations. It all started when on a visit to Katahdin Governor Baldacci looked out at the view and was taken by its splendor. Most people who have visited Baxter State Park will tell of its awe-inspiring power. “All of this has to be preserved for all the people of Maine,” said the governor, giving Commissioner Patrick McGowan his mission. After three years of work, the right elements came together for a land purchase.
Over 4,019 acres surrounding Katahdin Lake will be owned and managed by Baxter State Park, while allowing hunting on 2,000 northern acres that will be owned by the people of Maine and managed by the Maine Department of Conservation. The land has some trees that are up to 200 years old that were destined to be harvested, but now have been saved for future generations to marvel at.
“The Katahdin Lake Project has been my number-one conservation initiative and the commissioner and staff at the Department of Conservation have devoted countless hours working with our conservation partners, Maine residents, and the Legislature to complete Percival Baxter’s dream,” said Governor Baldacci.
“We put in easements, clarified access for hunting and snowmobiling, keeping the intrinsic wilderness of the park, protecting wildlife, and incorporated sustainable forest management. It was collaboration across party lines, working with community members and industry,” said Rep. John Piotti who worked tirelessly to get the governor’s bill passed. “It really shows state government working as it should, listening to concerns and finding solutions, so that we all can benefit. This was too big a deal not to get it right.”
“This is the most important conservation project in Maine since Governor Baxter purchased the lands around Mount Katahdin,” said McGowan. “For the state of Maine, this has been a once-in-a-century opportunity.”
Since Governor Baldacci took office, a number of landscape-scale conservation projects have been completed. Here are a few:
• The Forest Society of Maine’s West Branch project protects more than 300,000 acres north of Moosehead Lake. Governor Baldacci was cochairman of this effort, which began while he was in the U.S. Congress.
• The Downeast Lakes Forestry Partnership is a grassroots conservation effort begun by the citizens of the Grand Lake Stream area. Their work will protect more than 300,000 acres in Washington County.
• Governor Baldacci brought together the Appalachian Mountain Club and International Paper to negotiate and complete the AMC’s Katahdin Iron Works Conservation Project. This effort will protect nearly 100,000 acres in central Maine, while allowing for continued wood harvesting for Maine’s paper industry.