AUGUSTA, Maine - Environmental and outdoor recreation groups are warning that three dozen active land conservation projects spanning 50,000 acres in Maine could be in jeopardy because of Gov. Paul LePage's failure to release voter-approved bond money for the Land for Maine's Future Program.
Maine voters overwhelmingly approved bonds for conservation and recreation in 2010 and 2012 totaling more than $14 million.
In 2013 the governor held up the bond funding, pending passage of a bill to repay the state's hospital debt. But after the Legislature agreed, LePage said, "As a measure of good faith, I am hereby directing the State Treasurer to begin to prepare those bonds for my signature on an expedited basis."
Tim Glidden, president of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, says currently, the LMF Program has $2.2 million in cash on hand, but that's only enough to cover the cost of a small number of the 36 projects that are in the process of being completed.
Glidden says the projects include forest and agriculture land managed for water quality, recreation and other values located in more than three dozen communities.
"These projects are now at risk because it appears that the program is unable to fulfill its commitments, and so we're just very concerned that promises that have been made are not going to be kept."
If not borrowed by November, more than two-thirds of the funds approved by voters at the ballot box could expire by the end of 2015. But Glidden says several of the projects need the money even sooner.
It's unclear why the governor is withholding the funding.