Yesterday afternoon I joined more than 500 Maine people at an environmental “roundtable” with Governor Paul LePage at the Augusta Civic Center. MECEP cosponsored the event, organized by our partner organization, the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
One of the first of 28 invited speakers was Olympic marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson. Joan estimates that she has run more than 150,000 miles in Maine, along with countless additional miles of cycling and cross country skiing. She refers to herself as a human “barometer” of climate change. Her body is so attuned to the slightest change in the environment that no one has to tell her when Maine is experiencing a bad air day due to pollution migrating from areas upwind.
Horace “Hoddy” Hildreth, Jr., a life long Republican, former State Senator and son of Republican Governor Horace Hildreth, Sr. made the case that in Maine environmental protection has traditionally enjoyed broad bipartisan support. He noted that it was Republican led legislatures in the 1960s and 1970s that enacted much of Maine’s landmark environmental laws written by him and other Republican legislators.
Marilyn Meyerhans and her husband Steve are the proprietors of Lakeside Orchards in Manchester and The Apple Farm in Fairfield. She told the Governor that without support provided by the Land for Maine’s Future program, their farmland would have long ago been sold and subdivided into suburban house lots.
Glenn Libby, a lifelong fisherman and president of the Midcoast Fisherman’s Cooperative, explained that the state’s groundfish resource, once teetering on the brink of total collapse, is enjoying a renaissance because fishermen-designed sustainablity practices have begun to restore the fishery.
Speaker after speaker made it clear that in Maine environmental stewardship and economic prosperity are inseparable, that our very quality of life depends on it and that we owe it to our children to protect and enhance it for their future. Everyone who came to the event appreciated the Governor’s attendance. The question now is did he hear what they had to say?