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Western Maine, photo by Ramona du Houx

Editorial by Ramona du Houx

Our surroundings often help define culturally who we are. Visitors to countries around the globe often remark on how they are steeped in culture, usually referring to great architecture that is centuries old. The United States gets left out of this narrow definition because our architecture only reaches back to the 1700s. Granted, we don’t have a Parthenon, but what we do have is as old as time.

It’s nature.

America’s true cultural heritage lies where the original inhabitants of this great country resided. Native Americans did not build homes to last centuries; they worked in harmony with their natural surroundings to build communities that lasted generations, communities that respected and were thankful for the natural world that surrounded them.

In Maine, because of a concentrated, dedicated effort, people embrace this true cultural heritage. Organizations like the Natural Resources Council, the Sierra Club, Environment Maine, and many others have strong memberships. The people we elect reflect Mainers’ true love of nature and their determination to preserve this cultural heritage. During the last Maine Legislative session, the House and Senate voted unanimously to adopt policies that established Maine in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. RGGI is the nation’s first multi-state effort to curb emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants with a cap-and-trade system. It’s seen as a model for the country.

Congressman Michaud started his career in politics when he took action against what he saw happening to the Penobscot River and ran for Maine’s House of Representatives. Congressman Allen has focused on protecting Maine’s natural resources with zeal. Governor Baldacci’s record shows that he has done more than any other governor to protect our natural resources since Percival Baxter gave the state a park.

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Eagle on the Kennebec River. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Back in the ’70s, when a nation was waking up to the need to protect this cultural heritage, Senator Ed Muskie was already leading the fight. Refusing to be put on committees he didn’t want to be on, but were known to be political advancement positions, he kept to his beliefs and focused on preserving what every American holds true to our hearts, our land, waterways, and sky. His Clean Water Act is a standard eroded by the Bush administration. And Maine continues the fight, suing the federal government over these changes and other issues.

Last November Maine Attorney General Steve Rowe moved to join two legal actions filed by the State of California to force the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action on California’s request for approval to regulate greenhouse gas pollution from automobiles sold in the state. “Maine has a law designed to combat climate change by controlling greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles sold in this state,” said Attorney General Rowe. “The EPA must grant the waiver so we can enforce these laws and begin to reverse the effects of global warming.”

At a time when global warming has been identified as being a reality that the world must face up to, Maine has become known for having model environmental stewardship to aspire to.

In Maine, we have a great opportunity before us: to preserve, protect and grow our natural resources for the future. It’s good for the environment and for our economy. That’s what the Baldacci administration has been doing. Under Governor Baldacci’s leadership, clearcutting is coming to an end, more land has been preserved, green certification of lumber has been established, biofuels are being used, and environmental technologies invested in, amongst other measures.

“In Maine, we’re leading the way on the development of domestically produced, renewable and clean energy. Maine has tremendous potential when it comes to wind, solar, and tidal power, and to grow new industries to produce the equipment necessary to capitalize on that clean energy,” said Governor Baldacci. “We also have the natural resources necessary for these new biofuels. The University of Maine is working to perfect new technologies to create ethanol as part of the pulp-making process. The innovation holds the promise to revolutionize papermaking in Maine and open new markets for the Maine-made fuels.”

c2926dc689e5962f-qualityofplace3Augusta, Maine. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Imagine plastics being made in Maine from potatoes grown in Aroostook County, using technology developed at UMO; or fueling your car with ethanol produced in Old Town, with technology refined at UMO. These projects are currently underway.

Maine boat builders have already embraced technologies developed at UMO’s Wood Composite Center and are utilizing them to build quality ships they are selling globally.

Technology can add tremendous value to Maine’s natural resources, helping build Maine’s reputation in innovation in the global economy, as well as strengthening Maine’s economy. Voters wisely chose to continue to fund research and development last November.

“Investing in R&D at this point in time is critical,” said Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner John Richardson. “R&D is a motivating force in economic growth. It stimulates innovation that leads to new jobs, new industries and a higher quality of life.”

Protecting nature is more than protecting America’s cultural heritage; it’s ensuring opportunities for generations to come. It’s a proud tradition that has inspired generations of Mainers, which we need to see ripple across the country and around the globe.

We have been fortunate that the area which surrounds many of us still is nature’s wilderness. That fortune has depended upon insightful Mainers working to keep our cultural heritage intact.

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Maine boat builders are some of the best in the world. In Boothbay harbor at a boat festival. photo by Ramona du Houx

With internet access to the world’s marketplace entrepreneurs can live anyplace in the world. Many wish to live and work somewhere there are still natural wonders. That’s why, in part, Maine is experiencing an in-migration. How the state grows now will affect generations to come.

Last November, a large majority of voters declared how important Maine’s natural places of wonder are, when they voted to increase funding for the Land for Maine’s Future program. In 1971 Maine set up LURC to oversee development in its unorganized territories. Other states have not embraced America’s true cultural heritage in nature as Maine citizens instinctively do. Strip malls in neighboring states have stripped towns of their identity.

It’s an exciting time for the state; a defining time for all our futures.