BLANCHARD - A Piscataquis County man will take the reins of the Maine Association of Conservation Districts (MACD). Stephen Hobart, of Blanchard, was elected president of MACD at their annual winter meeting last week. As MACD President, Hobart will represent Maine's conservation concerns at regional and national meetings across the country. Hobart, chair of the Piscataquis County Soil & Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors, served as MACD Secretary in recent years.
Past President Bruce Roope of Aroostook County will serve as National Assoc. of Conservation Districts Director, voting for Maine at nationwide director's meetings. Roger Lavertu of St. John Valley SWCD is the new MACD vice president. Reinald Nielsen of Washington County SWCD is the new secretary. Fred Hardy of the Franklin County SWCD will remain on board as MACD treasurer.
Also elected to the MACD Executive Board were Directors at Large Marianne Hubert of Kennebec County SWCD and Anthony Carroll of York County SWCD. Commissioner of Agriculture Bob Spear was guest speaker at the MACD banquet on Dec. 4. Spear thanked districts and their supervisors for "all your hard work and dedication." He said that districts are respected throughout the state and in the legislature, and noted that the "District Day at the State House" planned for March 2004 was a good idea.
Present for the day-long meetings, Spear heard five-minute success stories from many districts.
"I know people talk about Bath Iron Works and how much work they bring to the state," he said, "but if you put all of these (district projects) together, you've accomplished a lot. Districts are the greatest delivery system we have for a lot of things, like the Dept. of Agriculture Water Use Survey."
Spear spoke about the challenges facing his department in coming months. He was told two weeks ago that because of the Dept. of Human Services deficit, his department is facing a fourth round of budget cuts, in excess of $400,000 this time. He commended Peter Mosher, of the Dept. of Ag, for finding funding from uncompleted manure storage projects that will "help some."
The commissioner touched on the racino issue, reporting that he had just been notified that documents about one proposed racino operator had been released by the attorney general's office to the press despite that individual's desire to keep the materials private. This was done to be in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.
"The governor is determined that when (racinos) are implemented, it will be done right," Spear said. "We want to be sure whoever gets to do racinos are credible people." Spear said he had also spoken with Gov. John Baldacci about formation of a Gaming Commission. This commission would not replace the Harness Commission, which would continue to deal with harness racing but does not wish to oversee racinos.
"I'm not going to say how anyone should vote, one way or the other," Spear said of an upcoming bond issue that supports, in part, the 'Farms for Maine's Future' program, "but this is a tool, and we need all our tools." Spear said the program is "very impressive, with a lot of interest," having drawn more than 70 applications during the most recent round. "Farms for Maine's Future" purchases the development rights to farmland, preventing the loss of open land while still allowing farmers to produce crops. The state plans to propose a $50 million bond issue in November 2004 and in November 2005 that would, in part, support the Farms for Maine's Future program. Districts had been approached about supporting this bond issue, and subsequently voted on Dec. 5 to be listed among supporters.
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