The two independent candidates for governor completed an extensive candidate survey by Maine Audubon, with some great responses, commitments, and plans. Today I am sharing Alan Caron’s responses. On June 29 I will share the responses of Terry Hughes.
While neither the Republican or the Democratic nominees answered the survey, I am encouraging them to do that now. If they do, I will also share their responses with you.
As you will see, Audubon asked some very good questions on issues that are important to all Mainers.
Alan Caron, Independent candidate for governor
Here are Alan Caron’s conservation commitments and responses to Audubon’s questions.
Q1 In 2015, Maine adopted a Wildlife Action Plan that outlines voluntary conservation actions to help prevent species declines over the next ten years. How do you propose implementing the plan?
Maine Audubon has been a long-time leader in bringing people together to do long range planning, including on this issue. I commend all of the people who worked together to develop the Wildlife Action Plan. My approach to implementing this plan is to appoint a Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner who is a collaborative leader, and then task her or him with pulling together key stakeholders (biologists, landowners, educators, conservation organizations) to flesh out an implementation plan. As Governor, I will pay attention to the good work that people have already done, and build upon that work. I commit to regularly consulting with conservation organizations and other stakeholders so I gain a deeper understanding of all the critical wildlife issues facing Maine. I have a long track record of bringing groups together to solve problems. It’s been my approach through the years to listen and learn, and to help us find common ground and practical actions that advance the state. Finally, one of my top priorities will be to move the state rapidly toward energy independence on a specific timetable. This will not only build self-sufficiency and save money, it will also help mitigate climate change, which is a existential threat to our wildlife.
Q2 The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (DIFW) works to conserve and enhance all of Maine’s wildlife resources, including nongame species. However, the bulk of the division’s funding comes from hunting and fishing license and registration fees and does not fund the full scope of their work. Do you support broadening the income stream for DIFW’s fish and wildlife programs and how might you envision doing so?
Yes. While I don’t yet have expertise on the pros and cons of various potential income streams, I will consult with experts and stakeholders, like Maine Audubon. One potential income stream is to reinvigorate and expand the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund lottery program.
Q3 Maine is home to 97 percent of wild Brook Trout waters in the eastern United States. Brook Trout are under threat from habitat degradation and fragmentation, as well as the introduction of invasive species. Do you support strengthening Maine’s laws and/or policies to protect this ecologically and economically important species and if so, how?
Yes, I support strengthening laws to protect brook trout and other unique species. Invasive species are killing off our native species, threatening whole watersheds. We need aggressive enforcement and protection of these waterways and our native fish species.
Q4 Are you willing to help lead the effort to pass a large land acquisition bond early in your term that will provide the Land for Maine’s Future program with the necessary funding to continue its work? Why or why not?
Yes. I have always supported the Land for Maine’s Future program and other mechanisms that protect land for future generations.
Q5 Maine’s Public Reserved Lands are statutorily managed for multiple uses, including wildlife, timber, and recreation. What are your goals for managing these lands and how do you propose to balance competing interests on these lands?
It’s essential that Maine’s natural character and its heritage are aggressively protected. Our natural areas are our calling card to the nation. It’s why people come to Maine, and in many instances why they stay in or move to Maine. Public Reserved Lands have a history of careful and exemplary management for multiple benefits. The role for state lands is to demonstrate sustainable ecological and economic management. High stocking of state lands is unique opportunity to demonstrate sustainable management. My overall goal as governor will be to build a new sustainable prosperity in Maine, in which we become famous not only for quality products and dependability, but also for the way in which we’ve grown the economy because we’ve cared for the environment, rather than exploited it.
Q6 Where we locate development is critical for ensuring the integrity of our natural resources, containing state and municipal costs, and supporting Maine’s economy and brand, which relies on our rich natural environment. What steps would your administration take to make sure future development is properly located?
I was the founder and first President of GrowSmart Maine, and also serves as the chair of our local Planning Board in Freeport, where we established the state’s first conservation subdivisions. I have a good sense of how to help shape development and land use. While I was leading GrowSmart Maine we commissioned the Brookings Report, Charting Maine’s Future, which coined “quality of place” as one of the three pillars of prosperity for Maine, and catalyzed the passage of many important laws and policies, including historic tax credits essential to downtown redevelopment, which has helped guide growth toward downtowns and villages across the state. Maine needs to reinvest in our downtowns and villages, encourage growth and development in places that make sense, and protect our natural areas and farms. The state needs to align its resources and investments to protect our quality of place, while creating thriving communities that retain our young people and attract new people to Maine. Maine communities have the opportunity to proactively shape development. Encouraging the development of housing and jobs near infrastructure reduces the cost of public infrastructure and the burden on taxpayers, reduces sprawl and preserves natural resources and natural areas. The state can and should play an important role in providing communities with the tools, assistance, and resources to grow smart. The template for this is in Charting Maine’s Future. As Governor, I would hard-wire coordination of the funding and policies of the departments of transportation, economic development, housing and community development, and environment. This will provide a supportive environment, incentives, and resources for cities and towns throughout the state who seek to strengthen downtowns and villages while protecting the natural areas that make their communities so special. I will also support growing the role of regional planning agencies, which can play a vital role in helping regions to grow smart.
Q7 Renewable energy sources like wind and large scale solar benefit Maine’s wildlife by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but can also bring negative outcomes, including bird mortality and habitat degradation. How would you balance the benefits of renewable energy with wildlife and habitat impacts?
Balancing the environmental benefits and impacts is the role of the environmental review process, handled through DEP and LUPC. We need more renewables and they must be sited properly. Overall, I’m in favor of rapidly accelerating small-scale residential solar to create a more distributed energy system. I’m also favor offshore wind and a moratorium on inland wind, which has significant environmental impacts on wildlife and viewscapes.
Q8 Maine has fallen behind the rest of New England in developing solar power. How do you propose increasing Maine people’s access to solar?
I will be a champion of renewable energy, instead of a roadblock. I have been a champion for solar, in particular, for decades. In 1982, while serving as President of the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization, in Portland, I partnered with Maine Audubon for one of the first projects in New England that brought solar power to working class urban communities, and trained people on how to build energy efficient window shutters for their homes. I have remained an energetic advocate for solar and other forms of renewable energy at the local and state level since then. We are on the verge of a truly historic shift in energy use in Maine that will enable us to produce more energy here, from the sun, water, wind and wood. Solar is where the truly disruptive technology is opening new opportunities for Maine. We get as much solar energy each year as does southern France. New breakthroughs in battery technology, solar shingles and window design are going to make solar the leading source of energy in Maine within a few decades, if we have the leadership and skill to seize that opportunity. It is power that can be placed on the roof of every new house built in Maine within a decade and retrofitted to many others as well. And it can reduce our need for big power plants and expensive transmission lines. As Governor, I will appoint PUC commissioners that are committed to my goal of developing a sustainable renewable energy system for Maine and I will do everything in my power to ensure that solar is included in all new construction projects in Maine.
Q9 What process will you employ in choosing commissioners of key natural resource agencies, including the Departments of Environmental Protection; Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry; and Inland Fisheries and Wildlife? What qualities and/or characteristics will you be looking for in your appointments?
I will ask key leaders in the natural resources community to help me identify and vet candidates for these important positions. I am looking for commissioners with the following qualities: ● Committed to the agency mission ● Collaborative ● Innovative and forward thinking
Q10How would you characterize your voting and/or professional record on environmental issues?
● Sustainable transportation. I helped lead and win the campaign to stop the Turnpike widening, which also instituted the most forwardlooking transportation plan in the country, at that time,, which is called the Sensible Transportation Policy, which is still in effect in Maine and which mandates that all alternatives must be considered before any road expansion can be undertaken. I was the chief advisor and strategist to the formation of Trainriders Northeast, and participated in the negotiations with Amtrak that led to the creation of the Downeaster passenger train from Boston to Brunswick. ● Habitat restoration. While assisting Bath Iron Works in its modernization some years ago, I helped persuade the company to contribute three million dollars to the removal of the Edwards Dam in Augusta, which proved to be the tipping point in that nationally significant sited dam removal. Later, I worked with the State Planning Office to help implement and organize the community outreach in up-river communities and the global media relations associated with the project. ● Smart growth. I noted above, I was the founder and first President of GrowSmart Maine, which focused on shaping growth to revitalize communities, reduce sprawl, and conserve land and natural resources. Notably, GrowSmart commissioned Charting Maine’s Future, which coined “quality of place” as one of the three pillars of prosperity for Maine, and catalyzed the passage of many important laws and policies, including historic tax credits essential to downtown redevelopment, which has helped spark downtown renewals across the state. ● Climate change. As the President of Envision Maine, I organized a summit on Maine’s Economy and Climate Change, bringing together the state’s largest chambers of commerce, energy and environmental groups, along with 350 Mainers, to explore how Maine needs to adapt to the changing climate. As a columnist for the Sunday Telegram, I wrote multiple columns about climate change, including this one criticizing climate deniers, this one calling for Maine to lead on clean energy, and this one calling on Mainers to roll up their sleeves and work together to adapt to climate change, and this one calling on elected leaders to take a stand against Big Coal.