HELP PROTECT THE ALLAGASH!
Submitted by Ted Williams on Fri, 12/01/2006 - 09:44.
THE ISSUE In June 2006, Maine Governor John Baldacci issued an executive order creating an Allagash Working Group. The Working Group was asked to recommend changes to the management structure of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW). After several months of study the Working Group has issued its draft report. Major points: . A new Allagash Board of Overseers would be created comprised of the Maine Conservation Commissioner, Maine Attorney General, Director of the Maine State Planning Office, and a public member from each of Maine's two congressional districts. . The Overseers would undertake strategic planning and participate in hiring an Allagash Director. The Director would oversee general operations. A deputy director would probably supervise Allagash staff on-the-ground. . A new agency would not be created for the AWW. It would remain within the Maine Department of Conservation for administrative, personnel, budgeting, and support purposes. . The Maine Legislature would maintain oversight of the AWW by controlling its budget, by reviewing implementation of the AWW law, and by confirming appointments to the Board of Overseers . . Federal and other sources of funds would be sought for AWW capital improvements, land acquisition, physical facilities, visitor information and education, and cultural programs. A Permanent Endowment Fund would be created to receive private funds for AWW improvements. . A standing Advisory Council of 6 to 10 members would be formed. Council members would have expertise in specified areas rather than representing particular interests. The Overseers would also be authorized to create ad hoc technical committees. While there are good points about the Working Group's proposal, there are many concerns. For instance: . A new Board of Overseers could be an improvement by elevating the stature of the AWW. However, the Overseers should be better insulated against political pressure and fiscal meddling. At minimum, all members of the Board should have knowledge of, experience on, and a commitment to wilderness in the AWW. Also, to strengthen the partnership between our state and national governments a representative of the National Park Service (NPS) should have a seat on the Board. Having a non-voting NPS seat on the Advisory Council is not adequate. . The principal guiding documents for the AWW are the original 1966 AWW state act and bond and the 1970 designation as a national Wild River and the Wild and Scenic River guidelines in effect at that time. Since the early years of the AWW, the Maine Legislature has revised the laws governing the waterway. Most troubling is LD 2077, passed last spring, which represents a serious setback for wilderness management. For instance, LD 2077 authorized 11 summer motor vehicle access points and 19 snowmobile access points, and it changed 6 bridges into permanent structures in the AWW. Unless LD 2077 is reversed, wilderness in the Allagash will suffer no matter who is overseeing it. . Although the Working Group was not authorized to address the fundamental mission of the AWW, many of the Working Group members have indicated they want to push to change the mission from "maximum" to "optimum" (or even less) wilderness. Such a change could significantly harm long-stand efforts to remove or better screen buildings and campsites, close bridges when possible, reroute logging roads away from the water when feasible, manage newly acquired adjacent lands as wilderness, etc. The mission of the AWW must remain to develop the maximum wilderness character. Because the Allagash Working Group draft report has not been made available online, it is included in full at the end of this alert. HOW YOU CAN HELP 1. Speak at the public hearing about the draft report emphasizing both the good and the bad points. The hearing will be held on November 28, 2006, from 12:30 - 3:30 PM simultaneously at these locations: University of Maine at Augusta Bennett Katz Library, Lower Level, Room 40 University of Maine, Orono Chadbourne Hall Room 5A University of Maine at Fort Kent Nadeau Hall Room 114B University of Southern Maine, Portland Campus Payson Smith Hall Room 304E 2. If you cannot attend the hearing, send written comments to the Working Group by December 12, 2006. Address them to: Kelly J. Arata Legislative & Policy Coordinator Governor's Office 1 State House Station Augusta, ME 04333-0001 Tel: (207) 287-3531 [email protected] MORE INFORMATION For more information contact [email protected]. Jym St. Pierre Maine Director RESTORE: The North Woods 9 Union Street Hallowell, ME 04347 207-626-5635 tel 207-626-7944 fax [email protected]