In his 2018 State of the State address, Governor Paul LePage included misinformation about land conservation, blaming land trusts for taking money off the tax rolls. In response to the Governor’s address, Maine Coast Heritage Trust and others in the land conservation community have not been silent.
Governor LePage has inferred that land trusts are responsible for $18.3 billion in tax-exempt land. In reality, that figure represents all tax-exempt real estate (land and buildings) in Maine, of which about 64% is owned by the state, and the remaining 36% is spread among all nonprofits, including hospitals, churches, chambers of commerce, and land trusts. Land trust-conserved land accounts for less than 1% of that total. One of the reasons land trust-conserved lands account for such a low percentage is because more than 94.5% of these lands are not tax exempt, even though many are eligible. Instead, land trusts chose to contribute to the local tax base by keeping most of their conserved properties on the tax rolls, oftentimes in Maine’s Tree Growth or Open Space programs.
Also in his remarks, Governor LePage left out the myriad benefits land trusts provide Maine communities. These positive impacts to Maine’s economy and communities were recently summarized in a report by the Maine Land Trust Network called “Land Trusts Work for Maine.” MLTN answer critics with actual data and real examples that illustrate how land conservation groups are expanding outdoor recreational opportunities, strengthening the tourism economy, supporting natural resource jobs, and enhancing local communities in Maine.
The findings of the report are based on a survey of Maine’s land trusts conducted in the summer of 2017. Highlights include the following statistics associated with land trust conserved land in Maine.
Maine land trusts have given the public:
- More than 1,260 miles of hiking trails
- More than 570 miles of snowmobile trails
- More than 200 boat launch sites
- More than 2.3 million acres of land open to hunters
- More than 2.1 million acres of working forestlands
- More than 36,000 acres of productive farmlands
- More than 65 access sites for marine fishermen
As a percentage of its total area, Maine has the least amount of public land of any state east of the Appalachian Mountains. Most states rely on government and taxpayers to conserve natural places and guarantee public access to the outdoors. To the contrary, Mainers have chosen a private sector path, built upon home grown land trust organizations in towns and regions throughout the state.
The “Land Trusts Work for Maine” Report also includes dozens of examples of how these community-based organizations partner with businesses, support local classrooms, help maintain public lands, improve water quality, connect people with nature, and make our state a better place to live and raise a family. To read the full report, click here.
MCHT and partner land trusts have shared this report far and wide, with legislators, other conservation organizations, the press, and the general public. As a result, in response to the Governor’s remarks, we’ve seen an outpouring of support for the work of land trusts and numerous articles pointing to all that was left out in the State of the State address.
To stay up to date on Maine land conservation issues and news, click here to sign up for “Maine Infoline,” a bi-monthly e-newsletter produced by the Maine Land Trust Network.