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Yvon Chouinard, a Maine native, is the founder of Patagonia.
What’s a California businessman doing writing for your hometown paper? Well, Maine is my home state, and the place you are from stays with you the rest of your life.
I was born in Lewiston and spent the first seven years of my life in Lisbon. My company, Patagonia, has had a store in Freeport since 1988. I still care deeply about Maine, especially its rivers and fisheries.
My brother Jeff hooked me on fishing by taking me out to the Sabattus River and sneaking a 10-inch pickerel on the end of the line. We never fished the Androscoggin, a beautiful river as it crosses into Maine from New Hampshire, picking up nasty industrial compounds on the way to its mouth in Merrymeeting Bay. You couldn’t fish the river then for much of its length, and today it’s still the dirtiest of Maine’s major rivers.
The Kennebec empties into the bay as well. In the early 1990s, Patagonia helped support the efforts of the Kennebec Coalition to take out Edwards Dam, an outdated structure that provided electricity to only a few houses in Augusta yet blocked 17 miles of spawning grounds for seagoing fish. After the dam came down, the fish came back faster and in greater numbers than anyone had predicted.
We’ve also supported local efforts to restore to health the Penobscot River and its fisheries. We love the moxie of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, which bought the outmoded Great Works and Veazie Dams just to tear them down.
Maine is unlike any other place in the world. Its special character relies on the independent culture of its people. My papa, who repaired the looms at the Worumbo Mill, could build a house from scratch or rebuild a lobster boat from the engine out. But Maine’s character also relies on the health of its public lands and waters.
Sen. Susan Collins has been an inconsistent friend to the economic and ecological health of Maine during her four terms in the Senate. Maine lags behind the rest of New England in creating clean, renewable energy, which attracts long-term investment and good jobs.
In a time marked by problems as big as global warming and the failure of our economy to support working people, Maine deserves a senator who doesn’t have to walk a tightrope between the needs of her constituents and the demands of the powerful in her party who want ever more breaks for the wealthy. (After Collins voted for Trump’s big corporate tax giveaway, Patagonia gave its resulting windfall to good causes.)
Sara Gideon has earned our support. I’m impressed with her pro-environmental record as speaker of the House, and that she has the knowledge, experience and the drive to help jump-start Maine’s clean-energy economy. She will be a refreshing change and a consistent, strong voice for what keeps Maine special. I hope you will cast your valuable vote in her favor.