Maine … one of the ‘Best Wild Places’ faces a threat

By Jeff Reardon

When we showed Maine’s brook trout country to Lawrence Pyne of Field & Stream magazine, I’d just started work on a new project for TU. Our focus was to find strategies to protect brook trout populations and habitat across a large habitat while they were still in good shape. We spent a lot of time talking about how different this was from some of TU’s other work.

“We don’t have some big threat hanging over our heads like Alaska’s Pebble Mine,” I said.

Well, now we do.  A subsidiary of JD Irving, which owns over a million acres of Maine forest land, has proposed a new gold and copper mine for a site in the headwaters of the Fish River.  Water draining in any direction from the mine site would hit good trout water (see map), and the chain of lakes downstream along the Fish River is among the finest angling destinations in Maine.

Irving’s opening salvo in the campaign to permit the mine was a 22-page bill to eviscerate Maine’s existing mining rules, introduced at the very end of our legislative session in mid-March.

Since then, working with groups as diverse at the Maine Lobsterman’s Association and the Maine Professional Guides Association, I’ve been in the Maine Legislature almost non-stop. We’ve succeeded in stripping some of the worst provisions out of the bill, but even the amended version would allow increased groundwater pollution, relax standards for mine reclamation, and weaken the financial protections the public has against a bankrupt mining company. Yesterday, the amended bill got a positive recommendation from the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. Four of the Committee’s 13 members are offering a minority report to kill the bill, and they deserve our thanks.

A vote is scheduled immediately, perhaps as early as this afternoon. If you vote in Maine, please check out our Action Alert, and send your legislators a message today urging them to vote against the bill. Even if you don’t vote in Maine, but you fish (or dream of fishing in Maine), take a minute and make contact. Maine’s brook trout— not to mention anglers, lodge owners, lobstermen, and me—will thank you.

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