Maine Government News
Response from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
October 1, 2012
Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
AUGUSTA, Maine -- The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (ACF) responded today to inaccuracies outlined in a scorecard released by the Maine Conservation Voters. “A Report Card to the People of Maine” is not a factual representation of the efforts of ACF to improve Maine’s environment and natural resources.
“Governor LePage’s leadership in merging the departments of Conservation and Agriculture puts the sustainable use of farm, forest and recreation resources in the best position to utilize scarce public dollars,” said ACF Commissioner Walter Whitcomb. “Unlike all the previous governors who tried to merge natural-resources departments, Governor LePage repeated instructed us to keep efficiency savings and use those funds to grow our natural-resource economy.”
The LePage Administration took the lead and actually completed what had only been squabbled about in other administrations – the merger and consolidation of two major natural-resource agencies into one comprehensive, cost-efficient department focusing on Maine’s land-based sectors, including agriculture, forestry, natural landscape, outdoor recreation and public-access interests.
Nowhere in the MCV report is this significant accomplishment acknowledged or even mentioned.
The combining of the departments of Agriculture and Conservation into the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry already is supporting the state’s natural resource economy, improving and supporting existing land-based industries, and streamlining the use of funds.
The Department has continued to provide excellent customer service during the merger process; it is facilitating team work in land-use planning, conservation and economic activity; and it is working with all the many constituencies that have a strong interest in our land-based natural resources.
Maine Conservation Voters fails to acknowledge additional efforts of the LePage Administration as well. Those include:
The Administration’s support for the joint invasive insect purple-trap survey now under way within the ACF department. More than 900 bug traps have been set out and are being collected and examined to determine if the highly destructive emerald ash borer, found in Massachusetts and Connecticut, has entered Maine.
The LePage Administration, through the ACF Commissioner, has initiated a number of category refinements that provided increased opportunities for small fruit growers and farm-to-school programs to qualify for federal research funding in the 2012 round of USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant.
- Efforts to grow and market Maine produce from all size of producers continue on a daily basis.
- A number of efforts surrounding proper use of pesticides and pesticide monitoring have taken place under the LePage Administration. The Administration, through the ACF department, strongly supported a combined effort of the Maine Farm Bureau and Maine Organic Farmers to require more safe handling training for pesticide use. This is especially important new training for users of organic pesticides.
- The LePage Administration supported the repeal of an extremely burdensome and redundant law regarding pesticide-application notification. Stakeholders now are working to reach consensus on a new version that meets the needs of both land managers and those interested in being notified about pesticide application.
- The Administration recently appointed the two public members on the Maine Board of Pesticides Control, one a PhD ecologist and the other a licensed arborist.
- Regarding the Maine forests, the LePage Administration was particularly supportive of new legislation creating “chop-and-drop” procedures – putting wood in streams to enhance cold water fisheries.
- Under the LePage Administration, the consolidation of most Forest Practices Act regulation enforcement has been turned over to the Maine Forest Service from LURC and DEP. This is a significant efficiency for the agencies.
- Under this Administration, the Maine Forest Service has begun issuing reports on the conditions of Maine’s spruce/fir and hardwood forests. This is a great benefit to all interested parties, including landowners.
- Through the efforts of the LePage Administration, significant reform took place on the management, development and conservation of Maine’s 10.4 million acres of unorganized territories. The Land Use Planning Commission is better positioned today to engage in meaningful, prospective planning for the future of the unorganized and deorganized areas of the State, including Maine’s North Woods. The need for and importance of this forward-looking planning process is recognized in the LUPC’s 2010 Comprehensive Land Use Plan. With the transfer of many permitting responsibilities to the Department of Environmental Protection, the LUPC now will have an opportunity to focus on this important planning.
- The recent reform legislation (LD 1798), which the Governor supported, enhances the qualification requirements for county nominees serving on the Land Use Planning Commission and recognizes the importance of the unorganized and deorganized areas of Maine to regions across the State. An individual nominated by a county to serve on the Commission must have expertise in commerce and industry, fisheries and wildlife, or forestry or conservation issues as they relate to the Commission’s jurisdiction. This is a new mandatory requirement. Each of the eight counties with the most acreage within the unorganized and deorganized areas has the opportunity to nominate an individual to serve on the Commission, this citizen board will be diverse and better positioned to represent and be responsive to individuals throughout these areas and across the State.