Land is still the lifeblood for many Maine working families. Farmers need land to grow crops and feed, for grazing, and for pick-your-own farms. Fishermen, lobsterers, and clammers need land adjacent to coastal waters for access to fishing grounds and piers to land catch, store gear, and moor boats. Loggers, sawmills, paper companies, and wood products businesses need sustainably-managed forest lands for wood and fiber. Guides, outfitters, sporting camp owners, motels and restaurants cater to families and sportsmen and women that hunt, fish, hike, and snowmobile.
Unfortunately, much of our productive land is more valuable as house lots. Productive agricultural lands are being converted into housing. In 2007, analysis by the American Farmland Trust showed that the U.S. was losing an acre of farmland every minute to development. Valuable as real estate, shore land is increasingly under private ownership. Of Maine’s 3,500 miles of coastline, only 175 miles is suitable to harbor fishing vessels; half of that has been converted to non-fishing uses. One-third of Maine’s timberlands are now owned not by paper companies but real estate investment companies for whom the value of forest lands is developed land not woods products. Vast tracks of recreational lands are being posted, gated, restricted, or subdivided.
Question 3 would provide $5 million to the Land for Maine’s Future program to buy land and easements to keep working lands productive and to retain public access to our woods and waters.
Maine’s lakes, mountains, trails, fields, and forests are economic assets. We need to invest in them to grow our economy as surely as we do roads and bridges.