Mike first ran for the Maine Legislature after witnessing the harmful effects of pollution from the mill where he was working on the nearby Penobscot River. He remains committed to protecting the rivers, mountains, and coasts of Maine as well as the livelihoods of those that live along and among them. Mike believes that economic growth and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive, and that the best way to advance many environmental causes is to make sure that local communities, government, and business leaders remain strongly engaged.
Maine continues to be a leader in sustainable forestry and agriculture, land conservation, recreational access, and clean energy initiatives. Mike believes that we must do everything we can to protect the environment here in Maine and America and that we must lead the world in advancing global initiatives that will protect the planet.
FORESTRY PRODUCTS & BIOMASS:
Maine's forest landscapes are a significant part of what creates Maine's unique character and are an important facet to Maine's economic vitality.
Mike has been a leading advocate for the Wood Utilization Research (WUR) program, which supports regionally and nationally focused university research that provides creative and innovative science, technology, and advanced business practices for the domestic wood products industry. Mike has pulled together a bipartisan coalition advocating the importance of the WUR program and emphasizing the need for securing long-term funding. The WUR Centers' research, which includes the University of Maine, is vital to maintaining the jobs and livelihoods of millions of people through their research and educational programs.
Mike also fought for changes in the 2008 Farm Bill that benefitted forest landowners, forestry management, and renewable biomass energy. The Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) is a major new program in the 2008 Farm Bill that Mike strongly supported in order to provide positive economic benefits that will lead to job creation. It is a great fit for Maine, with its vast forest resources and renewable energy opportunities. BCAP represents an ambitious partnership between the forest landowners and the operators that provide biomass materials to the conversion facilities that produce clean, renewable energy. The initial installment of BCAP funding resulted in a significant amount of the biomass program's funding coming to Maine -- over $59 million.
RURAL DEVELOPMENT & IMPROVING WATER QUALITY:
Mike is a charter member of the Congressional Rural Caucus, a bipartisan working group dedicated to addressing the pressing and unique issues facing America's rural communities. Maine's Second Congressional District is the largest east of the Mississippi River and is comprised entirely of rural communities.
Mike has consistently promoted adequate investments in the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and USDA Rural Development Water & Environment Program. Recently increases in funding, combined with Recovery Act resources, has helped Maine communities address a serious backlog of water and sewer infrastructure projects. Maine has benefitted from 88 water projects that are supported with $49.8 million in Recovery Act funding through the DWSRF and the CWSRF administered by the EPA. Maine rural communities benefitted from Recovery Act funding in the USDA Rural Development - Water and Environmental Programs (WEP) as well -- over $17 million in grants and nearly $10 million in loans for 21 projects involving drinking water, sanitary sewer, solid waste and storm drainage facilities in rural communities.
ADDRESSING CLIMATE CHANGE:
Greenhouse gas emissions have steadily been raising the temperature of our planet and could result in damaging change. We are already seeing a rise in sea levels, increased droughts, heat waves, changes in the yearly cycles of animal and plant life, as well as the melting of the polar icecaps. We must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and cut down on our use of fossil fuels before it is too late.
On June 26, 2009, the House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act. This landmark bill would jump start the economy by creating millions of new clean energy jobs, increase national security by reducing dependence on foreign oil, and preserve the planet by reducing the pollution that causes climate change. Mike fought successfully for language to clarify the definition of renewable biomass that qualified thousands of additional acres of Maine's forestlands. Mike also spoke on the House floor and clarified legislative intent on another provision providing incentives and allowances that would benefit Maine's forest landowners. Although the Senate never took this bill up, Mike continues to fight for investments in clean energy and a solution to our warming climate.
PROTECTING MAINE'S OUTDOOR HERITAGE & LAND CONSERVATION:
As a former co-owner of a sporting camp, Mike knows that those who spend time enjoying the recreational opportunities that Maine has to offer are often the best conservationists. These hunters, fishermen, hikers, skiers, boaters, and other sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts work alongside environmental advocates, local communities, businesses, and the state and federal government, to continue Maine's strong legacy of conservation.
Mike has worked closely with sportsmen throughout the state of Maine, including the Sportsmen Alliance of Maine -- our state's largest sportsmen organization with around 14,000 members. Mike is also a proud to be a member of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus. The Sportsmen's Caucus is devoted to land conservation and to strengthening and preserving the rights of outdoor enthusiasts, most notably hunters and fishermen. It is one of the largest and most active caucuses in Congress.
Maine has the largest unfragmented forests east of the Mississippi River. With changing patterns of land ownership and uses, Maine is at risk of losing many of its unique landscapes and its rural character that are so important to our heritage and economy. Mike has long been an advocate for land conservation efforts that keep forests working landscapes and accessible to traditional recreational uses. Mike has also consistently called for strong funding for the Forest Legacy Program and the Land & Water Conservation Fund programs.
Maine's collaborative land conservation effort has involved a variety of state and federal conservation agencies, as well as the forest products industry, forest landowners, and conservation organizations. The goal is to maintain the values that Maine's forest resources and its forest products industry have provided to Mainers for over 200 years. Maine and its many partners have been working together to utilize a combination of federal, state, local, and private funding to maintain nearly 2 million acres of working forests and important wildlife habitat that provide a wide variety of recreation opportunities and other public benefits.
In addition, Mike introduced the Acadia National Park Improvement Act. The bill reauthorized and updated statutes controlling the operation of Acadia National Park, allowing the National Park Service and local communities to continue to preserve this important landscape and wildlife area. Language from Mike's bill was included in the Consolidated Natural Resources Act, which became public law.
WILDLIFE CONSERVATION & ENDANGERED SPECIES:
In 2004, an innovative agreement was signed by the hydropower company, PPL Corporation, the Penobscot Indian Nation, six conservation groups, and various state and federal agencies. The agreement, when fully implemented, will restore the free flow of the Penobscot River by removing two dams and constructing a fish passage around a third dam.
The Penobscot River Restoration Project will have a wide range of benefits to fish and wildlife populations, water quality and communities along the river. The Penobscot River Restoration project will allow 11 species of sea-run fish to return to their natural habitats within the Penobscot watershed. Through reconfiguration of hydropower facilities elsewhere on the river, this habitat restoration is accomplished with limited loss of important hydropower generating capacity.
Mike has worked extensively with the many groups involved in the Penobscot River restoration project as well as Project S.H.A.R.E. Downeast river restoration efforts. He understands how important these projects are for Maine and has pushed for continued federal support.
On June 15, 2009, a decision made by the federal government designated Maine's Atlantic salmon as an endangered species. Mike joined the State of Maine and Senators Snowe and Collins in strongly disagreeing with the endangered designation. Based on the on-going cooperative restoration efforts, Mike urged federal agencies to provide the resources necessary to implement the species recovery plans and to mitigate effects on Maine's businesses and communities.