Steve Wight

Maine has tremendous wealth in nature: 4.2% of our gross domestic product (GDP) comes from outdoor recreation, tied with Wyoming for fifth best in the United States (Hawaii 5.8, Vermont 5.2, Montana 4.7, Florida 4.4).

Outdoor recreation accounts for 4.7% of our state’s employment. From 2018 to 2019, outdoor recreation employment in Maine grew faster than the U.S. average and supported over 40,000 jobs.

We are fortunate that about 21% of land in Maine is already conserved. By 2030, it would not be a stretch to protect 30% of the state’s natural and working lands, which climate experts suggest is needed.

The term “30×30” is something we’ll all be hearing more about in the coming months as we transition to a new presidential administration that is committed to making the country more resilient to climate change and securing environmental justice. 30×30 is a science-based decision-making goal to protect 30% of U.S. lands and waters by the year 2030, and is a fundamental goal in President-Elect Joe Biden’s climate plan.

Protecting “30×30” is achievable with a bond to revitalize the Land for Maine’s Future program (LMF), the state’s signature land conservation program. Since 1987, LMF has completed projects in all of Maine’s 16 counties, including mountain summits, coastal islands, beaches, forests, grasslands, wildlife habitat, farmland, wetlands and shorelines of rivers, lakes and ponds.

LMF has protected some 604,000 acres of conservation and recreation lands. This includes 333,425 acres of working lands, reflecting LMF’s efforts to conserve the working landscape and keep lands in private ownership with permanent land conservation agreements.

We are naturally wary of things that could erode our rivers, forests, lakes and wildlife bounty. New England is warming faster than any other region in the lower 48 United States, and our winters are warming three times faster than our summers. Each warm winter that passes without action intensifies the severity of climate impacts, which will harm our health, our economy, and our way of life.

Gov. Janet Mills’ Maine Climate Council made recommendations on Dec. 1 on how to stem climate change, including a 30×30 goal. Mills and the Climate Council should be commended.

As Mainers who stand to benefit, we need to support these leaders to ensure a focus on conserving biodiversity, enhancing climate adaptation and resilience for wildlife and people, while supporting outdoor recreation, a robust forest products industry and an agricultural economy for our children’s children. In these divided times, this is something we can agree on.

Steve Wight of Newry was commissioner of the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission from 1987-2010.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: