Takings Bill Takes Bad Turn

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Unless proponents of the takings bill step up to support changes in their proposal, the issue is likely to die in the Maine Senate.

Here’s the situation.

Two versions of the bill emerged from the Judiciary Committee. The majority report limits action to a mediation process and legislative scrutiny, for landowners who believe more than half the value of their land has been taken by new state laws or rules. The minority report adds a litigious process that allows the landowner to sue the state.

The minority report was rammed through the House, surviving by a single vote when Representative Gary Knight changed his no vote to yes (see my blog post about that debacle here). It stalled in the Senate, after an ugly post-midnight debate, when that body recessed to May 15.

Portland Event Debates Future of Maine Newspapers

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I’ll be at Portland’s Holiday Inn by the Bay on Monday, May 7, at 10 am, for a two-hour discussion of the future of Maine’s newspapers. You may want to join me for this free event.

I’m going for two reasons:

1) I’ve been writing columns for daily newspapers for more than 20 years. Today I have a weekly column on the editorial page of the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel every Wednesday, and a travel column, with my wife, in the same newspapers every Thursday.

2) I can’t eat breakfast without the morning newspaper propped up in front of me. The walk out to the roadside box to get the paper is a favorite morning ritual (I’m quite a sight in my pajamas and robe, with binoculars to check out the birds).

So I have a financial and a personal interest in the future of Maine newspapers.

A look back at DIF&W's Constitutional Amendment

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Recent discussion about the2011 legislative defeat of a Constitutional amendment that would have directed a percentage of the sales tax to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife prompts me to republish the following column.

This was my editorial page column for the Central Maine Newspapers on June 29, 2011, titled "DIF&W Constitutional Amendment Fails on Final Vote." Here it is.

Tenacity, skill, a good bit of begging and some good luck, almost put on your November ballot a Constitutional amendment that would have given the Departments of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Marine Resources 1.2 percent of Maine’s sales tax revenue.

At the last possible minute yesterday afternoon, five Senators who had voted for this bill on June 8 changed their vote to no. That was all it took to derail a decade of work.

Lovitch Helps Us Be Better Birders

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When my binoculars focused on a Blackburnian Warbler in the front yard of our Mount Vernon home, I was hooked. For years we watched our neighbor, Dona Seegars, binoculars plastered to her face, walking our property in the spring. When she finally got Linda and I out there with her, seven years ago, the number of warblers on our property amazed and thrilled us. And my first look at the wondrously colorful Blackburnian made me a bird watcher.

 

Eventually, I became a birder, a higher level of bird watching that sent me on Audubon trips in Maine and to far away places including Texas and Costa Rica in search of birds. Linda and I just returned from our third Texas birding adventure where we added 34 new species to our life’s list.

No More Land for Maine's Future?

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A modest $5 million bond issue for the out-of-money Land for Maine’s Future program is in jeopardy. Here’s the situation.

Governor Paul LePage’s antipathy to bonding is well known. His opposition is a big problem. But the Appropriations Committee proceeded without the governor’s participation, and put together a group of bonds totaling $98 million.

The LMF bond is the smallest, just $5 million. In response to the good work of Dave Trahan, the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, the bond includes language strengthening the focus of LMF on the purchase and protection of deer wintering yards.

Cod Take To The Air

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One of the great tragedies of the ocean is the collapse of the cod fishery, a tragedy that has played out up and down the coast of Maine, from fishing family to fishing family.

A similar tragedy occurred with herring. My grandfather was a fish inspector and my grandmother packed sardines in Lubec, when Maine had more than 75 sardine packing plants. They certainly would never have imagined the day when no sardines would be packed in Maine. But that day arrived in 2011 when the last plant closed.

At least with cod, there’s a hopeful new development: aquaculture.

Predator Control Program Spent Only $15,000

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While a bill calling for another $100,000 for the coyote control program is pending on the Appropriations Committee table, Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife was only able to spend $15,000 of its existing $50,000 budget to control these deer predators this past winter.

 Shawn Haskell, DIF&W’s Research and Assessment Section Supervisor, issued a “Predation Management Summary” on April 17. I requested more information including the names of the agents and the amount of money paid to each one.

In emailed comments accompanying the very brief one-page report, Haskell wrote, “As you know it was a pretty good winter for deer in most areas. We heard from a couple Regional Biologists that many deer never attempted to go to a traditional DWA, even when some snow came late in the season.”

Here’s what I gleaned from Haskell’s report.

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