Biologists, environmentalists, civic leaders and others will converge on Rangeley this weekend for a conference on Maine’s mountains.
But this isn’t just a feel-good nature weekend. The only other Maine Mountain Conference – held in 1972 – was instrumental in guiding state agencies to protect Maine’s wilderness areas, organizer Richard Fecteau of Farmington said Wednesday.
“Part of the reason for the timing (of this conference) is that (Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission) is revising their comprehensive plan,” Fecteau said. “We would like to show them there’s still a lot of interest in the mountains of Maine.”
The open-to-the-public event kicks off Friday night with a dinner, a poetry reading, and a talk about changes in Maine since 1972. On Saturday, there will be talks, presentations and panel discussions on the Maine mountains and on conservation, a welcome by journalist Bob Commings and a keynote address by former state Rep. Neil Rolde.
Experts in aquatics and hydrology, climate change and geology, biodiversity, conservation, wildlife habitat, climate change, history and ecology will share speaking time with local folks, according a press release.
Some of the presenters will be giving previews of new information, Fecteau said. “The highlights (of the conference) will actually give the regulators a more scientific basis for continuing the protection” of the mountains.
Conference committee member Bob Weingarten of Vienna said in a press release the conference will serve “to remind policy makers, public interest groups, and the general citizenry why Maine’s mountains were given protection in the 1970s,” and “to review and assess the value and usefulness of the protections now in place.”
Committee members also hope the conference will spark conversation about new ways of conservation.
LURC has put huge resources into studying and protecting wetlands, but has done relatively little to protect Maine’s mountains, F! ecteau s aid.
No LURC staff members will be attending the conference, LURC Director Catherine Carroll said, but not because it doesn’t sound interesting. “I don’t deny there would be much to learn from this conference, however in view that I have got wind power applications before me, I plan to keep a very neutral profile here,” she said. “It’s important to me that while this application is before me and I’m giving it a thorough review, (to make) sure I remain fair and impartial here. It would be the wrong thing to do, anyway, given my position.”
If conference members generate a report after the event, she added, she plans to read it. “We’ll certainly get our hands on it,” she said.
So far, more than 180 people have signed up for the conference, which is being held at the Saddleback Mountain base lodge.
By Maggie Gill-Austern , Staff Writer
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