The Myth of Environmental Protection

by Tom Gordon

In 1970, there was no DEP, no shoreland zoning, and the Great Ponds Act was generally ignored as people dumped sand in their lakes to create beaches that could not last. Municipal sewage and industrial wastes were pouring into our rivers, streams, and lakes.

Times have changed! For 45 years, as COLA and now the Maine Lakes Society, we have advocated for strong but sensible regulations to protect the water quality and beauty of our lakes. Lakeshore property owners have accepted more stringent land use regulations because we know our lakes are fragile and our land use activities can impact the future of the waters we love. We accept regulation “for the sake of our lakes.”

While most lakeshore property owners recognize the value of shoreland protection, some do not. For those few, we need firm and effective enforcement of environmental regulations by municipalities and the State. Senator George Mitchell once said: “an unenforced environmental law is worse than no law at all, because it creates the myth of environmental protection where none in fact exists.”

We cannot afford to maintain a “myth of environmental protection” when it comes to Maine’s lakes! Hundreds of citizens attended a public hearing on the Lakes Bill, one of the longest hearings on environmental legislation in recent memory. The message was clear: we love our lakes and we mean business!In the current legislative session, the Maine Lakes Society will support limits on shoreland fertilizer use and new requirements for stormwater infiltration. We will ask for an evaluation of shoreland zoning compliance. And we will continue to monitor any and all legislative proposals that might help or hurt our lakes.

The price of pristine lakes is eternal vigilance – on the water, along the shoreline, throughout the watershed, and in the halls of the State House. Keep your eyes open and make your voice heard in support of Maine lakes!

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