My friends and acquaintances include right- and left-wing zealots, so discussions with either side often include listening to their unilateral views. Our two-party system requires give and take to work, so “compromise” is my adopted middle name.

Because of that, I listen to both sides and the middle and regularly read National Review and Mother Jones magazines, so my decisions often end in compromise. I may not change every opinion, but I at least ponder my beliefs, leading to more informed decisions.

That scenario occurred while I was reading about the clean-air act in the right-wing National Review, an act that has affected me as a hunter and angler. The article included a fictitious narrative about a pollution-producing company, an anecdote that all outdoor folks should ponder, because our sports depend on clean air (and water).

“A major manufacturing outfit,” the author wrote, “… hopes to double its size – doubling its employment, doubling its output, but also doubling its pollution as a result – should it be able to do so.”

That succinct quote really put the issue of clean vs. dirty air in perspective, but in the real world, the tradeoffs include complex issues, beginning with this: Do we want twice as many jobs and twice as many products to sell to generate income and taxes, or do we desire a cleaner environment with fewer jobs and revenue but healthier air?

Answers seldom offer such definitive choices, and National Review made that point: For example, improved technology might help the manufacturer double its output and jobs without emitting more pollution, but the steps to achieve such a goal, according to the writer, will cost big bucks. And the article’s slant furnished prohibitive cost figures that it would take to achieve expanded green goals. In short, the author wanted to keep static environmental gains while increasing economic goals.


The author made a salient point in one sentence: “Between 1980 and 2013, lead levels in air fell 92 percent, carbon monoxide fell 84 percent, sulfur dioxide fell 81 percent, nitrogen oxide fell 60 percent and ozone fell 33 percent.” The author finished by saying, “As improvement got better, regulations became more strict.”

He pushed the idea that America needs a new balance to meet economic challenges while securing “the widespread gains in environmental quality to date while prioritizing economic growth over further environmental improvement.” But the issues require give and take – not unilateral solution.

Maine’s hunters and anglers face environmental problems that their sports highlight. I offered a perfect example last week: Coal-fired plants in the Midwest produce airborne mercury that west winds carry here, which have created fish-consumption advisory warnings from the Maine Department of Health, even on remote northern Maine brook-trout ponds. Anglers should be livid, and in the airborne-pollution department, Maine isn’t at a place where clean-air regulations have created nirvana – if remote ponds have such advisories.

In the 1940s through ’50s, northern and eastern Maine reigned as the Northeast’s deer-hunting mecca. Then the pulping-and-lumbering industry began leveling deeryards in those regions – mature conifer canopies essential for deer during severe winters.

Now the northern Maine deer herd has declined to an average of one to two per square mile. Can you imagine the pressure a scarce herd puts on northern Maine sporting camps relying on income from visiting hunters?

To me, though, deeryard woes get down to this: Can we ask land owners with a valuable stand of conifers not to cut it? The owners need a monetary incentive to leave deeryards standing, but where does the money come from to pay the owners? There’s the rub. Public officials, nonprofit organizations, etc. come up with ideas, but so far their solutions have resulted in one to two deer per square mile.

The National Review made me question my thoughts on environmental regs, but here’s the point: We still have unresolved air and water problems. (Check out fish-eating advisories that warn of mercury, PCBs, dioxins and DDT.) Furthermore, a clean environment generates tourist dollars and improves the way of life for residents, and we can still have a strong economy. We must continue to strive for a cleaner state and planet.

Ken Allen, of Belgrade Lakes, a writer, editor and photographer, may be reached at

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