On June 30, the Maine Legislature passed a historic bipartisan budget. To kick off July, Gov. Janet Mills signed the budget into law. Our budget is a statement about our priorities; it sets the tone for what we want to accomplish. When resources are limited, we debate until we’re red in the face over what needs funding the most — especially during a time like this. I’m so glad to report that, for this year, we’re committing to supporting our environment and curbing climate change in ways that help everyone.

One of the things I’m most happy to share is that we included $40 million for land conservation, which is one of the most substantial monetary injections to the Land for Maine’s Future program since it was founded nearly 35 years ago. In 1987, the Maine people voted to fund $35 million to purchase lands of statewide importance. Since then, Land for Maine’s Future has protected 600,000 acres in all 16 Maine counties, including farmland, working waterfront properties, shoreline, coastline, working forestlands, and popular outdoor destinations like Mount Kineo, Tumbledown Mountain, Gulf Hagas and the Bold Coast. Land for Maine’s Future brings conservationists, businesses, municipal officials and others together to decide how to best take care of our state immediately and in the long run for the next generation.

Land for Maine’s Future has not received any new funding since 2012. During the previous gubernatorial administration, Gov. Paul LePage let $6.5 million of voter-approved bonds go wasted, turning the Land for Maine’s Future program into a political bargaining chip, rather than a viable option to support our state. The $40 million investment in this budget is a monumental shift that will do a lot to support conservation across the state. It’s also a very practical investment, with more than $3 in federal and private funding coming into Maine for every state dollar we invest. We’re protecting our most valuable and essential natural resource: the land that we occupy. This is one of the easiest things we can do to fight against climate change. Much of climate change can be attributed to human action and, unfortunately, human inaction. That’s why we’re making conscious efforts to preserve our natural resources.

We’re also adding $27 million and 20 new positions for the cleanup and identification of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, often referred to as PFAS. PFAS are forever chemicals. This means that they are permanent in our environment and in our bodies. They don’t break down and they accumulate over time with continued exposure. PFAS exposure can lead to negative health effects. The new positions will work to treat drinking water, oversee environmental testing, and manage contaminated sites. Maine is one of the first states to take major steps toward PFAS remediation. We’re making a conscious effort to help keep groundwater clean and protect ourselves and the organisms in our environment. We’re also adding new positions to work on resiliency planning for rising sea levels. Here in the midcoast, we know too well how rising sea levels will impact our roads, homes, municipal buildings and livelihoods. Resiliency planning helps us prepare for changes, keep people in their homes and prevent worse destruction in the long run. We’re also setting aside funds for the forest carbon mapping project to find areas with high potential for protecting stored forest carbon. Forests trap carbon emissions and deforestation releases that carbon into the air, which speeds up global warming. This project will help us determine which forests store the most carbon and are essential to conserve.

Overall, we’re asserting that we are taking sizable steps toward combating climate change and creating contingency plans for the negative impacts. We’re facing an immediate climate crisis, and we need to attack from different angles. The climate crisis is a matter of justice. The wealthiest and most powerful among us will be able to weather and survive climate crises, but too many hard-working Americans will not. Action from individuals, corporations and governments are essential to helping our planet. These fiscal actions are just some of the ways our state government is stepping up to the plate.

As always, if you have any questions about the budget, our work in the State House, or if I can listen or lend assistance, please feel free to reach out. You can reach me by email at David.Miramant@legislature.maine.gov or call my office at 287-1515.