RUMFORD – Mapping information about public lands and their uses, and getting that to the public, was one of nine recommendations issued in a Thursday report by a gubernatorial task force.

Created last February by an executive order from Gov. John Baldacci, the Task Force Regarding the Management of Public Lands and Publicly-Held Easements was charged with examining management of public lands and publicly-held easements.

The group, which began meeting in June, was comprised of five Legislative members, four landowners who provide recreational opportunities on their land, leaders from three natural resources-based state agencies, and nine people representing recreational interests.

Other recommendations include:

• Forming a recreational access and conservation forum.

• Developing a 50-year vision of recreation and conservation needs.

• Securing access to moving waters like the Androscoggin River.

• Updating Maine’s ecological reserve system.

• Investing strategically in acquisition and stewardship of conservation lands.

• Developing backcountry recreational opportunities.

• Maintaining connections with private landowners.

• Creating access to ocean recreation.

“This report emphasizes that (by) working together and increasing dialogue, we can reduce conflict and ensure that our public lands are preserved and maintained for all Maine people and visitors to enjoy for generations to come,” Baldacci said Thursday afternoon by e-mail.

“Maine has some of the finest quality natural resources supporting a vibrant recreational and tourism industry. We recognize there are constant pressures on our resources, and that stakeholders and government need a better way to balance competing interests,” he added.

The group developed a baseline inventory of Maine’s public lands and publicly held easements, including location, acreage, and allowed recreational uses.

Also pegged were strategies and resources necessary to reduce conflicts regarding recreational use on and access to public lands, and to adequately plan for existing and future needs for Maine’s broad assortment of recreational activities.

“This resulted in a strong blueprint for all interests to move forward on preserving and expanding the public’s recreational opportunities on public lands – from remote wilderness backcountry to high quality snowmobile and ATV networks,” Karen Woodsum, director of Sierra Club’s Maine Woods Program, stated in a Wednesday report.

According to Task Force Chairman Paul F. Jacques, deputy commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the most often heard comment at two public listening sessions was that people wanted more information about Maine’s lands.

“People are aware of the lands they use regularly, but wanted to know more about other recreational opportunities,” Jacques said. “We learned that we need to do a better job at getting our message out. That message is, that there are more than 1,870,000 acres of land owned or managed by state agencies.”

Mapping these resources needs to be done in both print and electronic media and in collaboration with private recreationist and conservation groups to enable an overall sense of all lands available for outdoor recreation, the report states.

“People are always asking me, ‘Where can we do this? Where can we do this?'” Maine Department of Conservation Commissioner Patrick McGowan said Thursday by phone in Augusta.

The DOC created a compact disc of its 2-hour presentation to the task force, outlining nearly all of the properties it manages, listing permitted recreational activities.

McGowan said both the disc and the presentation are available to the public. He’s also trying to get a Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund grant to compile it on a DVD for public-access cable television.

“This gives it all – a complete menu of opportunities,” he added.

“The CD is so impressive,” Karin Tilberg, Baldacci’s senior policy advisor, said Thursday. “The good news is that Maine has so much here and we can really take pleasure in that.”


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