September 20, 2017  
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LePage torpedoes public land bill—again
LePage torpedoes public land bill—again
On June 29, Governor Paul LePage vetoed LD 586, An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Commission To Study the Public Reserved Lands Management Fund. When the Maine Legislature returns, the Senate and House will vote on whether to override LePage's veto.

Maine has about 600,000 acres of Public Reserved Lands, including the Bigelow Preserve, Kennebec Highlands, Tumbledown Mountain, and the Cutler Bold Coast. These state lands are enjoyed by countless Mainers and visitors for their outstanding hiking, camping, birding, fishing, and hunting opportunities. They provide important wildlife habitat for a wide range of species. And they have a reputation as being some of the best-managed forests in the state.

Since taking office, Gov. LePage has been eyeing these lands to increase logging to unsustainable levels and siphon off essential funding for unrelated purposes. Thus far, LePage’s schemes have been rebuffed but he persists.

In 2015, the Legislature created a special commission to study the Public Reserved Lands Management Account. The Commission discussed issues related to how money from the account can be spent and how the forests on Maine’s Public Reserved Lands should be managed. The Commission issued a unanimous report that recommended legislation to block the governor from raiding the Public Lands fund. In 2016, the legislative committee of jurisdiction unanimously supported the resulting bill, which passed both legislative bodies under the hammer. LePage vetoed the bill and his administration thwarted a veto override.

In 2017, the bill was revived. It would ensure that forest management decisions are based on recent timber inventories, that harvesting levels are consistent with the forests’ multiple use mandate (recreation, wildlife habitat, and sustainable timber harvesting), and that areas with insufficient access and recreational infrastructure are identified and prioritized. The success of the Commission and the bill’s bipartisan support remains fresh in legislators’ minds. The bill would also increase transparency over how money generated from logging on the Public Reserved Lands is spent.

On June 21, the governor line-item vetoed all funding for the bill. The House and Senate voted to override that veto. On June 29, LePage vetoed the entire bill. The Maine Legislature will take up that veto when it returns.

Posted on Thursday, June 29, 2017 (Archive on Thursday, July 20, 2017)
Posted by Jym St. Pierre   Contributed by Jym St. Pierre
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