Photo by: Steve Horne

The Deluge of 1999

R.O. Voight

January 10, 1999

Yes, the legislative flood of 1999 is real, damaging, and overwhelming the State Legislature. Never before has the State Legislature been faced with so many proposed laws! 2,900! Can you imagine yourself being one of them, serving on a committee, and being faced with reading, understanding, determining the validity of that many pieces of draft legislation?

Somehow the process has gotten out of control. This number of draft legislative pieces should somehow be screened, filtered, or diminished before the legislators have to confront each and every one. Ask yourself, do we as citizens really need that many new laws? Are we as citizens in need of that much government control over our lives? How have we lived this long without these 2,900 laws? Is state government out of control?

These proposed laws cover everything from milk to meat to trees to ecological reserves to motors on the Allagash. Of special interest to many is the vast number of proposed laws on the forests of Maine. Last year they passed LD 2286 which established unbelievable detailed control of harvesting trees in the Maine Woods. And yet this year there are some 45 proposed new laws on forestry and related land use!

It is obvious that the enviros have created and submitted to willing legislative sponsors many of these proposed bills. And many are trying to reinstate issues that failed in the two Compacts. Typical Bills are:

  • LR 892 - Forest regeneration and clear cutting standards
  • LR 1834 - "An Act to reserve public access in the Maine Woods
  • LR 2024 - 2119, 2198 - Amend the Forest Practices Act
  • LR 801 - To amend the Forest Practices Act
  • LR 1351 - An Act to Reserve Public Access to Land
  • LR 1232 - An Act Requiring Legislative Approval Ecological Reserves
  • LR 2259 - An Act to Create Ecological Reserves on Public Land

Then there are two bond issues:

  • LR 523 (Sen. Pingree) - Authorizes $100 million for Conservation, Outdoor Recreation and Wildlife Habitat
  • LR 2258 (Rep. Shiah) - Authorizes $120 million for Land Acquisition by the Land for Maine's Future Board. Does this sound familiar to recent enviro proclamations about the proposed Maine National Park? Or even more likely, to purchase the 185 thousand acres that The Nature Conservancy recently purchased from Champion Corp.?

Several years ago, the Inspector General of the Department of Interior investigated The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and their land practices. They reported that many of the TNC land purchases were resold to the government at a profit. TNC acts as an agent for the government until the government can obtain the funds to make the purchase. There is a local documented case where TNC purchased 60 acres in Washington County to prevent private development, and then resold the land to the government for Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge expansion.

For the past ten years, here in Maine, the enviro national and state groups have strategized to take our private forest land by deception, by regulation, by law. Every year, there has been an onslaught. The most recent and most publicized was the Governor's Compact in 1996 and 1997. Due to strong and persistent grassroots opposition these efforts have not yielded the desired enviro results. So, beginning this year, they have made a major change in their overall strategy.

They are now planning, budgeting, and gathering funds to buy the land! The first example is the recent purchase by TNC of the 185,000 acres in western Maine. There are three bills in the United States Congress that propose to provide funds to purchase our land. The bills are:

  • H.R. 4717 (Young) - $1.5 billion annually
  • S. 2566 (Landrieu) - $1.054 billion annually
  • H.R. 4467 (Gephardt) - $900 million annually

These are of course national funds to purchase land in any of the fifty states, however, Maine is the priority one target! This federal support can only give strength to the enviro thrusts and plans to take our land for their own purposes.

Here in Maine, we have the two bond issues, mentioned above to provide $100 million and $120 million respectively, for the purchase of forest land. Yes, the deluge is coming!

Property right activists have continually screamed about the Constitutional right to have land paid for, compensated! They have correctly defended their rights of property ownership when threatened by politically inspired laws and regulations. Well, now the enviros are convinced they have to change their strategy, and they now plan to buy what they want. Thus, the land owners must change their defense!

What is the defense against this willing seller/ willing buyer mechanism? What flag should the property rights activists rally around now? There is another valid issue that prevails, that is another nemesis of private land. Private land is the fundamental, rigid, irreplaceable cornerstone of our democratic free society. As Samuel Adams said in 1772, "The absolute rights of Englishmen and all freemen, in or out of civil society, are principally personal security, personal liberty, and private property."

And in 1821, John Adams said, "The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and there is not the force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence."

The concept of removing private land from our tax rolls, and making it "public" land is anathema to our concept of freedom and individual ownership. Nowhere is public land managed as well as private land. The greatest example of degraded public land is in Russia, where all land was public. That land is now an environmental disaster.

The federal government now owns more land than our Founding Fathers ever envisioned. Just look at the feverish upset and disturbed citizens and their legal battles out West over public lands. Our grassroots issue in Maine is now "public land" and all that issue entails!

R.O. "Bob" Voight is a founding member of the Maine Conservation Rights Institute.

"Courtesy of Scott Fish,"