AUGUSTA, Maine — A coalition of environmental, conservation and civic organizations on Thursday outlined their five-year vision for improving the health of Maine’s economy and people while protecting the state’s natural resources.
The “Trail Map to Prosperity,” released by the Maine Conservation Voters Education Fund and the Maine Environmental Priorities Coalition, urges state policymakers to invest in land conservation and green energy, adopt “smart growth” policies and encourage local agriculture.
“Taking smart, well-planned steps on this trail to prosperity will position Maine to lead and benefit from a quickly changing world while maintaining our solid roots in the beautiful environment we call home,” said Maureen Drouin, executive director of the Maine Conservation Voters Education Fund.
“We are counting on Maine lawmakers to act with vision, vigilance and forward-thinking approaches that make wise use of our extraordinary environment so Maine people and Maine’s economy can thrive.”
In many cases, the report espouses support for policies already on the books in Maine or for programs that are already in place. These include development of offshore wind farms while protecting fisheries and coastal resources; use of the state’s Kid-Safe Products law to ban products containing harmful chemicals; and a wood stove replacement program to encourage homeowners to use cleaner technology.
The report also lays out specific priorities, including:
• Invest at least $20 million annually in the Land for Maine’s Future program, which works with willing landowners to permanently preserve working forests, farms and waterfronts as well as other areas of special significance.
• Protect an additional 100,000 acres of farmland — or 10 percent of the state’s total — through easements and other tools and invest in research and support programs for sustainable agriculture.
• Remove “antiquated and unsafe dams.”
• Support stronger air quality standards and invest at least $3 million in protecting drinking water programs.
• Significantly increase funding for Maine’s fish and wildlife programs.
• Enact policies to encourage “smart growth” of communities, such as ensuring that new schools are constructed only within growth areas and in locations that will encourage students to safely walk or bike to school.
“Today’s trail map is a much-needed prescription for healthy Maine people,” said Heather Spalding, associate director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.
Coalition members include roughly two dozen environmental, conservation, agriculture and health organizations.