The Roles of Government
Compilation and Summary by Emily Sinnott, Colby '08
QUESTIONS POSED BY MODERATOR JEFF PIDOT:
Do you think the current level and approach toward land conservation is sufficient for the future? Is our primary reliance to date upon working forest conservation easements the answer?
Should there be a greater (lesser, or different) role for government in directing or overseeing the work of private land trusts in their conservation easement and other land conservation initiatives? If so, at what level, and how?
Should there be a greater (lesser, or different) role for government in owning and managing land in Northern Maine? In your view, would more government land ownership and management provide for better (or worse) outcomes in terms of land protection, public recreational opportunities, sustainable forest utilization, and unfragmented habitat and/or as a magnet for an economy increasingly dependent upon tourism?
If you believe there is a need for greater public land ownership in northern Maine, what level(s) of government ownership and management would you consider best in meeting public needs?
Does the current LURC program offer a sufficient regulatory model? Concern has been expressed that the LURC law exempts a certain amount of lot creation from subdivision review (up to 3 lots in any 5 year period), and that this has created a considerable amount of largely unregulated land fragmentation and development. Do you think this is a problem? If so, what is the solution?
Should other portions of the LURC planning and zoning scheme be strengthened or changed, in order to curtail sprawl and target future development in areas pre-selected as appropriate, while reserving the rest of the jurisdiction for traditional forest products production where such use is economic?
Should tax or other laws be restructured or enacted to encourage a future for Northern Maine that is more ecologically and economically sustainable?
Is government even the right agent to bring about needed change, or should government take a back seat to the private sector in setting the course? Without an activist government role, how can the public have meaningful input and impact on the future of this area?
QUESTIONS SUBMITTED BY THE AUDIENCE:
For John Echeverria
What makes regulation more failsafe in protecting natural and working landscapes than easements, given that land use regulation can change or shift, perhaps more easily, than voluntary easements?
If regulation is related to property value increases, what are the implications for economic equity for low-income communities in northern Maine?
The great northern woods constitute a unique place that needs to be dealt with in unique ways because there is a greater (perhaps even national) interest. Meanwhile, in many communities in northern Maine, people struggle to get by and they see their societal institutions deteriorate due to depopulation. Preserving the natural landscape is a significant challenge. What about preserving the communities in northern Maine? How do we accomplish that?
John Echeverria's comments about the uniqueness of northern Maine seem to be addressing the fundamental difference between Maine and developed regions in the country. That is: What governmental or private programs/funds can be used to maintain a resource based economy in northern Maine?
What are landholders' protections from regulations? Who has the privilege of determining regulations, because as we know regulations aren't always made in the best interest of the people who live on the land? For example, State regulations of the rivers don't necessarily benefit those who live along the river.
Not withstanding Echeverria's pendent for regulation, What if citizens prefer less regulation? Easements on working forests now commonly prohibit development, permit public access, and require sustainable forest management in perpetuity. What's wrong with that as another way to achieve conservation?
Echeverria mentions a possibility that LURC could take a stronger route of protective regulation for northern Maine. Does this not continue to keep Maine on a political path of two Maines? One area identified to carry the burden of growth for another, but in reverse the better able financially will work and live in northern Maine and the less advantaged financially will live in the municipalities of the 1st Congressional District?
For John Banks
How would you integrate a system of usufruct rights, based on the Native American model, to augment the dominant system of private ownership in the North Maine Woods?
What kinds of conservation and management tools does the Penobscot Nation use on its land and what can the rest of Maine learn from these practices, structure, and tools?
For Robert Dunphy
With respect to a development like Plum Creek, when the construction of a large number of vacation homes is undertaken in the Unorganized Territory, how are these properties taxed? Who collects the taxes? LURC? The State? Does the Unorganized Territory have any form of local government?
Does "Home Rule in Maine" mean 1) Town meeting, or, 2) State command and control? What should be the role of counties?
He speaks of how well the system works now...BUT:
1) What about issues of dispersed population for the purposes of school busses
2) Waste disposal
3) Fire & ambulance service
4) Road standards may apply to a subdivision, but not to the private road leading to the subdivision
What would it take for communities in the North Woods to want to engage with the rest of the State, or let the rest of the State participate in a conversation about planning for the future of the North Maine Woods?
For Jeff Pidot
Isn't there some legal basis for open access (example: Great Pond Access Law)? Can you answer more of your own questions?
General Questions for the Full Panel
Should there be a role for more public ownership and management of land in the North Woods, to protect public values and incorporate public input?
Separation of powers: Which branch of government should make decisions and can be bound by its decision for 7 generations?
Does Maine need a conservation and recreation plan for the North Woods, followed by a development plan for areas not essential for conservation?
Is Tree Growth money used for more local infrastructure in the UT?
Why should the "public" support the use of public funds for the acquisition of conservation easements (thus helping pay for the values of the "commons") when in 8-10 years or perhaps longer, a new owner and the easement holder can negotiate ending the "perpetual" easement because of so-called "unforeseen circumstances"? (See Johnson Co MT Supreme Court decision) What is the nature of the public's standing in such situations?