Senator Susan Collins has bought into the vanishing forest story. She is aware of some of the following facts and has chosen to ignore or hide them.
In 1940, Maine had over 6,000,000 acres of pasture and cultivated land. Today we have just over a million. Since 1940 we have gained an average of about 77,000 acres of forest in Maine each and every year. Just walk out through a mature stand of hardwood forest and you'll find a stone wall. Those walls were not placed there during the night by elves. They were placed there by our grandfathers and their fathers when those fields were cleared. Near those stone walls you will find cellar holes and foundation stones for barns. The happy families that lived there are long gone. Their diaspora is part of a long term effort the environmental industry calls "rural cleansing." We are not wanted here. Our presence here is called "sprawl," Their goal is for us all to live in "core service communities"
Senator Collins says, "Sprawl occurs because the economic value of forest or farm land cannot compete with the value of developed land." On the contrary; The 77,000 acres of farm and pasture land we have lost each year have been lost because the value of forest land exceeded the value of those 77,000 acres as pasture, cultivated land and homes. If the pastures were more valuable the owners would have preserved them. It takes a lot of work to prevent forests in Maine. Just ask Central Maine Power or Bangor Hydro what it costs each year to prevent forests under their power lines.
We all know that there are some towns in lower Maine where poor planning has resulted in overcrowding of schools. Hello. An economic boom and rising property values bring prosperity to the towns where that occurs. They have the money for more classrooms and only poor planning has prevented their availability. Meanwhile, classrooms in Northern Maine are vacant. Schools are closing and being torn down so taxpayers don't have to maintain vacant buildings. We need some sprawl. Those few acres in lower Maine that have actually been taken over by housing don't begin to intrude on the 77,000 acres of forest we continue to gain each year. Keep repeating that number because it includes those few acres lost to what the doom-sayers call "sprawl"
Senator Collins is "particularly alarmed by the amount of working forest and farm land and open space in southern and coastal Maine that have given way to strip malls and cul-de-sacs. Once these forests, farms, and meadows are lost to development, they are lost forever." Well, we know from the cellar holes and stone walls that this statement is simply not correct. I have a large tree growing in the center of a cellar hole on my own wood lot. The Poole family lived there until 1959 when they became one of the families displaced from Northern Maine. Now it's my wood lot. I'm using it. I don't know if the preservationists would consider it preserved or not because I encourage human use of my land. It's a working forest, but I'm not conceited enough to pretend that I know what the highest and best use of my wood lot will be a few generations from now. Maybe there will be a home there once again. I surely don't want to poison my land through some easement and prevent the wise use of it forever. What if the pig farmer in South Portland had placed a conservation easement on his land? The Maine Mall site would be a pig farm today.
Senator Collins says, "Rather than preserving our working forests, farmland and open spaces by zoning or other government regulation, at the expense of the landowner, this program would provide resources to allow a landowner who wishes to keep his or her land as a working woodlot to do so." That sounds just fine. If she wants to provide resources to help me out I'm interested. After the Civil War, Quantrell's raiders swept across Kansas in an earlier rural cleansing initiative. They killed whole families and then they poisoned the well on the farm to prevent anybody from ever using it again. That's what an easement does. It poisons the well to prevent any owner from ever benefitting from it again. I'm not a willing seller.
Senator Collins says, "My bill will change that by making the federal government an active partner in preserving forest and farm land and managing sprawl." That makes the hair stand right up on the back of my neck. That last thing we need is a federal watchdog as a partner of Maine landowners.
She says, "By enacting the Suburban and Community Forestry and Open Space Act, Congress can provide an additional avenue of support for these conservation initiatives, help prevent sprawl, and help sustain the vitality of natural resource-based industries. Sprawl occurs because the economic value of forest or farm land cannot compete with the value of developed land." We have already shown that forests in Maine are gaining some 77,000 acres every year. That's because forests are the highest and best use of those acres. We can afford to gain just a little less each year. What if we only gained 72,000 acres? That would leave 5,000 acres for economic growth so our sons and daughters would not have to leave Maine. They could build homes right here. That would not be sprawl. It would just reverse some of their "rural cleansing". If my town continues to grow at its present rate, by the year 2050 we'll be back to the population we had in 1890. That was 1,200 people; hardly a sprawl problem. Such "sprawl" does not threaten our environment or quality of life, destroy ecosystems or engender calamities of any kind.
Related Article: Preserving Maine’s Forests