The State of Maine has a brand-new agency -- one that will focus on the best use and development of the state's extensive land-based natural resources.
The new Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry becomes official on Thursday, Aug. 30, combining two departments into one that will support the people and economy of Maine while protecting its most valued assets.
The new department, which merges the departments of Agriculture and Conservation, is the result of legislation signed into law earlier this year by Governor Paul LePage, part of his vision to enhance the state's economic prosperity.
"The new ACF department is truly a department of Maine lands, which, for the first time, brings together agriculture, forestry, outdoor recreation, conservation, public access and an array of land-use planning assistance," Governor LePage said. "I expect this new department will accomplish great things and ensure that Maine's natural resources, which are such an important part of our heritage, will continue to play a leadership role in our future prosperity."
"Starting Thursday, Maine citizens who earn their livelihood from the land and those who enjoy Maine's outstanding land-based natural resources will be working with the newly configured Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry," said ACF Commissioner Walt Whitcomb. "There is much we can accomplish by working together.
"Time and time again, we heard from the very-involved interest groups across Maine that the quality of public service should be continued as employees work under a new, focused agency," Commissioner Whitcomb continued. "Our No. 1 mission is to provide the highest level of public service."
Department staff members have been preparing for the merger since the legislation's adoption. As part of that effort, Ed Meadows, who served as conservation commissioner in Maine from 1988 to 1995, has returned from Michigan to assume the position of deputy commissioner for the new department.
Seeking public input on the merger has been a priority in advance of the law's effective date. Three well-attended stakeholder meetings were held in Augusta, Orono and Caribou to garner comments and recommendations for the department consolidation. Written comments have been received from agriculture, conservation and recreation constituencies which have been valuable to the Administration in shaping the new department.
The new department will have 732 full-time and seasonal employees and have a budget of $96.5 million. It will be organized into seven divisions:
Division of Agricultural Resource Development;
Division of Forestry;
Division of Parks and Public Lands;
Division of Quality Assurance and Regulations;
Division of Animal and Plant Health;
Division of Geology and Natural Areas; and
Division of Land Use Planning, Permitting and Compliance.
All professional and technical boards and organizations associated with both departments will continue to work in conjunction with the new department.
Department staff may be reached at the following telephone number: (207) 287-3200.