Executive Summary

The State of Maine’s Environment is a series of reports written by senior environmental policy majors at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. The State of Maine’s Environment 2014 is the eighth State of Maine’s Environment report created by students enrolled in ES 493: Environmental Policy Practicum taught by Philip J. Nyhus, Environmental Studies Program. Topics in this report include municipal waste, alternative transportation, islands, coastal and island wildlife, and big game. In each chapter, we explore the history and context of the topic, evaluate its current state, and conclude with major findings, potential scenarios, and policy recommendations.

In the first chapter of the report, we examine the current state, successes, and challenges of Maine’s waste management system by looking at three aspects of municipal waste: landfills and incinerators, recycling and composting, and household hazardous waste. We begin by explaining the general framework of the waste management system, through waste management preferences, regulations, and stakeholders. We then provide recommendations on ways in which Maine can reach its fullest potential of waste management programs such that new technologies like Waste-to-Energy could divert from the overuse of landfills. Additionally, we recommend the collaboration of different compost producers could provide farmers with the composted materials for farming use. Finally, we recommend several strategies that could increase convenience and frequency of collection of household hazardous waste to mitigate improper disposal. We also assess the system through a series of scenarios plausible within the municipal waste management system.

In the second chapter of the report, we assess the state of three modes of alternative transportation in Maine: electric vehicles, bicycles, and public transportation. We describe the history of each of these modes of transportation, summarize regulations and stakeholders, and provide a comprehensive view of the status of each mode of transportation in Maine. We find that only 0.06% of Maine vehicle owners drive electric vehicles, only 0.5% of Maine commuters travel to work by bicycle, and only 0.8% of Maine commuters use public transportation. We analyze the economic, human health, and environmental implications of adopting alternative transportation systems in the state, and find that even small-scale adoption of these modes of transit can result in significant reductions in transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions. Lastly, we recommend that, in order to increase the popularity of alternative transportation in Maine, the State Government, local NGOs, and other important stakeholders should collaborate to educate Mainers about the benefits of alternative transportation, implement economic incentives and disincentives, and create a “complete streets” urban plan.

In the third chapter of the report, we focus on the current state of Maine islands by analyzing influential factors including tourism, conservation, lobster fisheries management, and energy. We assess each factor individually by providing a history, stakeholders, and laws influential to each topic. We examine how these factors impact the islands based on environmental, economic, and social aspects. Additionally, we analyze how each topic contributes to the overall state of Maine islands. We provide possible future scenarios that are influenced by these factors in order to portray how Maine islands may change over time. We recommend that for tourism, research that compares the bridged, unbridged, seasonally populated, and islands visited by day-trippers with untouched islands is necessary to provide more informed policy recommendations. For conservation, we recommend that existing land trusts, such as Maine Coast Heritage Trust, increase the amount of conservation easements on the islands using existing funds from Land for Maine’s Future. We find that the unbridged islands’ lobster industries would benefit from local management through the Island Limited Entry Zone Program. We find that community engagement and government support are equally important in in providing cheaper and cleaner energy for Maine’s unbridged islands.

In the fourth chapter of this report, we analyze the current state of coastal and island wildlife in Maine. The coastal zone of Maine includes the inland line of all coastal towns and townships on tide waters and all islands. To begin this assessment, we examined five species–Atlantic puffins, green crabs, herring, North Atlantic right whales, and harbor seals–to indicate the current threats and management efforts facing Maine’s coastal wildlife. Our analysis of these five species demonstrated the need for a more ecosystem-based management approach to protect Maine’s coastal and island wildlife. By ignoring the state of all species within a habitat, policy decisions can be misguided or unproductive in larger ecosystem contexts. We find that the sufficient management of the various species living along Maine’s 3,500 mile-long coastline is essential to maintaining Maine’s coastal biodiversity and community livelihood. In 2013, Maine’s coastal municipalities employed 55% of the state’s workforce and 60% of the state’s GDP. In order to sustain such livelihoods, it is crucial to closely monitor the status of Maine’s coastal habitats and the wildlife they comprise.

In the fifth chapter of the report, we assess the state of three big game species in Maine: the black bear, the moose, and the whitetail deer. We describe the history of management for each species, identify pertinent legislation and stakeholders, and provide a detailed summary of the current status of the three species. We analyze Maine’s current big game management strategies, assess the strengths and weaknesses of each approach, and highlight the various issues and conflicts that inform policy decisions relating to these three species. We discuss the economic, social, and environmental implications of existing big game populations and subsequent management efforts in Maine. Finally, we provide several recommendations that detail the various ways in which Maine could improve existing management approaches and establish a more comprehensive, integrated, and effective management plan.