Bond would fuel public land buy-outs

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

Will Mainers vote to boost future public-land purchases by backing a $5 million bond initiative?

The executive director for a local environmental agency said it is very likely — based on past Election Day history — voters will pass a statewide bond measure designed to fund the nonprofit that buys land for public access, traditional use, and ecological preservation.

“Maine has a history of voting in favor of any Land for Maine’s Future bond since 1987,” said Loon Echo Land Trust (LELT) Executive Director Carrie Walia.

“This should be the sixth bond since 1987; and, Maine voters have passed it every time,” Walia said.

On the Nov. 6 ballot, voters will weigh in on Bond Measure No. 3, which, if passed, would provide $5 million to Land for Maine’s Future (LMF.)

According to a newsletter from the Natural Resources Council of Maine, “LMF has been a huge success. Since 1987, it has conserved mountains, trails, beaches, working farms, forestland, and waterfronts across Maine — more than 500,000 acres in all. Protected lands include more than 250,000 acres of working forests, 30 working farms, 24 commercial waterfront properties, hundreds of miles of trails, and more than 1,000 miles of shore access.”

On the local level, Walia has sent e-mails to LELT members, reminding them to support the upcoming bond initiative.

She said the likely outcome is favorable. Despite the tough economic environment, people have a tendency to be more open to statewide bond measures than those presented on the local level, she said.

“The burden would be shared statewide so it is not as daunting for voters,” Walia said during the week before Election Day.

“This is spread out among all voters because it is a statewide measure,” she said.

“When Mainers are asked if they want to protect their natural resources, conserve surrounding nature, and benefit their economy, they usually say, ‘Yes,’ ” Walia said.

LMF has supplied a financial boost to recent land projects including the purchase of a 27-acre tract on Hacker’s Hill in Casco, phase two of the Pleasant Mountain buyout from a 2008 bond, and the purchase of land to secure the Sebago Headwaters Preserve in 2004. Also, LMF money assisted with sustaining and preserving for the future agricultural farming at Five Fields Farm in South Bridgton, Walia said.

“We’ve been awarded funds from the last three bonds. For the Lakes Region that has totaled over $1 million coming in through LMF,” she said.

“If and when the voters pass it, anyone who is eligible will have to compete for the monies,” Walia said.

“LEA is looking forward to submitting an application for projects to be in the Lakes region,” she said.

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