Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage set off a political firestorm after he sent a letter to donors of a major environmental group arguing eco-activists’ “true intent” is to keep Mainers from getting “jobs they need to raise themselves out of poverty.”
“While everyone supports a healthy environment, the [Natural Resources Council of Maine] is doing it at the expense of good-paying jobs for rural Mainers who are desperate for employment,” LePage wrote in a recent letter to Natural Resources Council of Maine’s (NRCM) donors, which was obtained by the Portland PRess Herald.
“It is an activist group that says “no” to every opportunity to allow Mainers to prosper, and it is working to make rural Maine a national park virtually devoid of human activity or meaningful employment,” LePage wrote. “I would request that you carefully review policy positions before donating to them in the future.”
LePage’s letter sparked outrage among activists — even among some of the donors themselves, according to the liberal blog ThinkProgress. NRCM activists believe their anti-development advocacy is helping Maine preserve its natural resources.
“[Our members] have been furious with this governor for five years and this makes them particularly mad,” Pete Didisheim, the group’s advocacy director, told ThinkProgress.
Didisheim said this isn’t the first time LePage has attacked NRCM for working to keep Maine’s resources off-limits to development. LePage attacked the group five times during a March radio address and even posted “wanted” posters of NRCM officials at a town hall meeting that month, according to ThinkProgress.
LePage has launched even more attacks since, and now has taken to writing to the group’s publicly listed donors, urging them to reconsider giving NRCM any money.
“You may not realize that your financial support of NRCM pays for a lavish office building that is just a block from the State House — a short walk for its highly paid lobbyists to push their anti- business agenda on legislators — while residents in places like Calais or Millinocket or Mars Hill cannot afford even modest, middle-income homes,” LePage wrote.
“NRCM recently spent your money to rent buses and transport activists from Southern Maine to a meeting in Orono to push for a national monument in the Katahdin region, something the Legislature and town after town in rural Maine have voted to oppose,” LePage added.
LePage is referring to a national monument in northern Maine being proposed by President Barack Obama. NRCM and other environmental groups are backing the proposal, and have even funded busloads of activists to attend an important meeting on the proposed designation.
But many in rural Maine don’t want a national monument in their backyards, which would make it much more difficult for businesses to operate since they would have to comply with more permitting requirements. Maine’s legislature passed legislation blocking the federal government from exercising exclusive rights over national monuments within the state.
LePage has come out against the proposed national monument, but that’s put him in a heated political fight with the Quimby family. The Quimbys co-founded Burt’s Bees lip balm. LePage recently wrote an oped claiming Roxanne Quimby’s son, Lucas St. Clair, also happens to be a NRCM donor.
Sportsman groups contested the proposal to turn 87,500 acres of Quimby land into a national monument, arguing it would only expand to engulf more surrounding lands. That means more federal control over private property.
“We do not believe the land will remain an 87,00-acre national monument for long,” David Trahan, who heads the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, said during a recent public meeting, adding it would “grow like a cancer” into a 3.2 million-acre national park long feared in the region.
“Folks in rural Maine have neither the time nor the resources to attend these meetings or travel to the State House and lobby for the good jobs they need,” LePage wrote in his letter to NRCM donors. “NRCM should not be leading the charge to deny life-changing economic opportunity to poverty-stricken people in rural Maine.”
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