A coalition of groups representing interests from commercial fishing to real estate expressed support Monday for a proposal to float $80 million in bonds to fund purchases by the Land for Maine’s Future program and another $35 million for state park maintenance.

The two bills, L.D. 983 and L.D. 687, received support Monday from a diverse group calling itself the Land for Maine’s Future Coalition. Its members include an economic development organization in Franklin County, a farmland preservation group and a fishermen’s group.

The Land for Maine’s Future program is “one of the only tools we have in our toolbox to protect working waterfront properties in Maine,” said Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association. Martens said the program is able to buy development rights for working waterfronts, providing capital for the properties and making sure that waterfront is not developed into housing, hotels or other non-marine uses.

A group of real estate agents also banded together to back the bond proposal, saying conserved land that the public can access “is a key selling point we often hear from our clients.” Georgie Kendall, a Washington County real estate agent who submitted a letter of support from 26 fellow agents in Maine, said the state’s natural character is a key attraction for clients relocating from out of state.

Other organizations supporting the measure include the Greater Franklin Development Council, the Maine Farmland Trust, the Maine Wilderness Guides Organization and the Maine chapter of the Trust for Public Land.

Lawmakers on Monday held a public hearing on the two bills, one introduced by Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Cumberland, and the other by Rep. Patrick Corey, R-Windham.

Land for Maine’s Future was established in 1987 and has helped protect more than 600,000 acres in Maine, including working waterfront sites, access to rivers, lakes and ponds, and farmland and working forest. The funding provided by Maine is often matched by federal programs, such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The state program hasn’t received new funding since 2012 and its supporters often clashed with former Gov. Paul LePage, who opposed the program and tried to block some of its land purchases.

Officials say the additional funding for state parks is needed because there is a backlog of $50 million worth of maintenance projects that have been deferred due to lack of funding.

If the Legislature approves the two measures, the bond questions would be placed on the November 2021 ballot.


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