LAND USE BILLS THREATEN WATER QUALITY
Two major land use bills that will affect the future of Maine lakes in a big way are being heard by the Maine State Legislature this month, and will be decided soon. Neither of these measures should be allowed to pass as written, and lake advocates should let their legislators know this.
The first, LD 1798, seeks to revise land use planning in the Unorganized Territory (UT), which spans Maine's 10 million acre North woods.
While seeming to support regional planning, permitting, and enforcement of resource protections, this bill would in fact destroy coordinated land use management across the vast UT. By allowing counties to opt out of the planning commission and politicizing the appointment of commissioners, the bill is a recipe for inefficient, fragmented planning and management susceptible to influence by large landholders who own 90% of the UT.
The people of Maine would suffer the irrevocable loss of access to the largest unfragmented and undeveloped land area east of the Mississippi River, most of it highly prized wilderness, productive timberlands, and home to Maine's renowned "gem lakes," the highest concentration of remote ponds and high quality lakes in the northeast. And the resources such as lakes, rivers and streams will degrade and forests disappear.
A Work Session is scheduled for Thursday, February 23, at 1 pm in the Agriculture Conservation and Forestry Committee Room, 206 Cross Office Building, Augusta. Please let your legislators know how you feel about it.
LD 1810, a Regulatory Takings bill, will weaken resource protection by obligating the State to reimburse landowners who claim they have lost money due to land use laws. Simply put, LD 1810 would compel Maine to pay landowners to obey the law! This would not only threaten Maine’s natural resources and economic wellbeing but tie the hands of legislators facing threats to these assets in future. Other states such as Oregon and Montana have enacted takings measures only to find themselves and their taxpayers owing tens of billions of dollars to landowners and unable to address emerging issues because of potential new costs.
Lakes are what Maine could lose if this legislation passes. Maine's great ponds -- lakes considered so valuable they are held in trust for the people by the state -- generate over $3.5 billion dollars’ worth of economic activity each year, shape our way of life, and symbolize Maine to millions of people around the world. They remain huge assets and the envy of other states today because they are clean and clear, support abundant wildlife, and supply manifold human needs and desires. But lakes are not truly renewable; they can and do get pushed beyond healthy limits to become liabilities. We continue to enjoy them today because Maine land use laws have largely kept them from harm for over 40 years.
The Regulatory Takings Bill would change that. Protective standards could be randomly waived, causing a regulatory and enforcement hodgepodge, undue conflict and expense, and inevitable water quality damage. This is the true takings this bill represents, a taking of value from the people, businesses, towns and state of Maine to benefit a few individuals who don’t want to follow the law.
This bill will come before the Judiciary Committee at 1 pm on Tuesday, February 20th in Room 438 of the State House.