Regardless of your stance on the Central Maine Power corridor, it’s important to note that there are ongoing inconsistencies on assessing change of use on Maine public lands. Public lands belong to the people of Maine. Mainers need to be able to rely on transparent processes, predictable measurements, and that the Maine Constitution is being followed by state government leaders and agencies.

The Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committee are reviewing two bills intended to better protect public lands. L.D. 471, An Act To Require Legislative Approval for Certain Leases of Public Lands, would ensure proper oversight of use for public lands. L.D. 1075, An Act to Protect Public Lands, would require the Bureau of Parks and Lands to develop a process and specified rules to determine if a project meets “substantially altered” criteria for public lands.

In 1993, 72% of Mainers voted to protect Maine’s public lands by amending the Maine Constitution to require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature for sales or leases that substantially reduce or alter the value of land held in public trust. A recent example of non-compliance was revealed when two administrations in a row issued leases to CMP without the constitutionally required legislative vote.

The concept of altering public lands, however, extends beyond one single project. The Legislature must act to require that the bureau develop an objective set of specified evaluation criteria identifying what substantially altered truly means relating to protect public lands.

In order to ensure openness and transparency in the future, it’s important to pass L.D. 471 and L.D. 1075. Establishing rules will ensure that the Maine Constitution is upheld, and that the same standard is applied to reviewing requests for leases or sales involving public lands, regardless of who is in power.

Sandi Howard
director, Say NO to NECEC

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