Public Hearing Get Me to My Hiking Trail / Public News Service

Mainers who hike and enjoy the outdoors will have greater access to forests under a measure that comes up for a hearing Tuesday. (Chris Shane).

March 27, 2017

AUGUSTA, Maine — Lawmakers will hold a hearing Tuesday on a measure that would establish priorities for Public Reserved Lands to provide better access for outdoor enthusiasts.

Eliza Donoghue, policy advocate and outreach coordinator for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said they are particularly excited about LD 586 because it will place a greater emphasis on outdoor recreation – a measure which she said is underutilized in public forests across the state.

“You know, we’ve got an incredible resource in our Public Reserved Lands, but they are sometimes hard to get to, hard to find a trailhead,” Donoghue said. “And this bill would say, ‘Hey let’s identify what our biggest recreation infrastructure needs are.’ “

The act calls for establishing priorities for trails, signs, bridges and other infrastructure that would bolster recreation opportunities, among other initiatives. It comes up for a hearing at 1 p.m. Tuesday in the Agriculture Conservation and Forestry Committee.

Gov. Paul LePage opposed the bill when it came up in 2016 because he said it would have just made more work for the Bureau of Parks and Lands. Donoghue said she believes the measure has broader support this time around.

“There has been a much larger conversation about Maine’s Public Reserved Lands and how they are managed this session within the context of the governor’s budget,” she said. “So these are kind of ideas that are front and center for the ACF Committee who will be holding the hearing.”

The act is the product of unanimous recommendations from a bipartisan study commission formed in 2015 that included input from the forest products and recreation industries.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service – ME

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