The State of Maine’s Environment 2014 was written by the Colby Environmental Policy Group, senior Environmental Policy majors at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. This is the eighth report since the series was launched in 2004.  Each State of Maine report addresses several timely environmental topics important to Maine. The five chapters covered in this report are the states of municipal waste, alternative transportation, islands of Maine, island and coastal wildlife, and big game species.

We collected data by conducting literature reviews and interviewing key stakeholders. We also communicated with scholars and practitioners in Maine and in other New England states via email and telephone.  We used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools to analyze and map relevant spatial data.

Each chapter of this report follows a similar outline. For each chapter we provide an introduction and describe the historical context; identify and describe relevant laws, institutions, and key stakeholders; and then analyze the current state of the topic in Maine. We discuss the implications of our findings and make conclusions and targeted recommendations.  Many chapters also provide illustrative scenarios to describe a range of possible futures.

In Chapter 1, “The State of Municipal Waste,” we assess current trends of waste generation, by examining landfills and incinerators, recycling and composting, and household hazardous waste. The disposal of household municipal waste is currently a growing challenge in the state due to declining landfill space and environmental pollution. In 2012, Maine generated over 1.3 million tons of municipal solid waste, yet only 39.46% of this waste was recycled and composted (MDEP, 2012; NRCM, 2014). Additionally, the waste generated in 2012 included over 20 million pounds of hazardous waste (MDEP, 2012).  In this chapter, we analyze the capacity and effectiveness of Maine’s waste management policies in reducing environmental and public health costs. Drawing from our analysis and examples for other countries, we develop recommendations on how Maine can lower waste disposed in landfills by improving its recycling, safe waste disposal rates, and considering different waste treatment technologies.

In Chapter 2, “The State of Alternative Transportation,” we assess three modes of alternative transportation available in Maine: electric vehicles, bicycles, and public transportation. Transportation is a major driver of energy use in the state.  Anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are one of the primary contributors to climate change, and 28% of the US GHG emissions come from the transportation sector (USEPA, 2014). In this chapter, we analyze the current status and barriers to the adoption of these alternative forms of transportation as well as the economic, human health, and environmental implications of adopting alternative transportation systems in the state.

In Chapter 3, “The State of Maine Islands,” we explore the environmental, social, and economic importance of tourism, conservation, lobster management, and energy on the islands of Maine. Maine is known for its distinctive coastline and many islands. There are approximately 4,000 islands along the coast of Maine, more than on the entire Eastern Seaboard (Conkling, 1999). Of these, 15 are unbridged islands that support year-round residential populations (The Island Institute, 2014). In this chapter, we assess the state of the each of these subjects individually, but provide future scenarios and policy recommendations that connect these topics to form a comprehensive conclusion.  

In Chapter 4, “The State of Coastal and Island Wildlife,” we examine the current threats facing Maine’s unique coastal wildlife. Maine is the only state entirely located within the Gulf of Maine and its coastline is one of the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world (USFWS, 2005). The diverse wildlife found in Maine’s coastal habitats, however, faces a growing number of threats, including warmer water temperatures due to climate change and invasive species (Dawicki, 2012; Nault, 2014). In this chapter, we use indicator species to assess the state of the coastal zone and analyze the current management strategies and policies used to protect the critical habitats in which these native species live. By dividing the coastal zone into four distinct habitats, we examine the complexities of the coastal marine ecosystem and offer specific policy recommendations to promote its protection.

In Chapter 5, “The State of Big Game,” we assess and analyze the current status of these three big game species in the state of Maine. Big game species are important to both the people and the natural environment of Maine, specifically for recreational and economic reasons. Revenue from deer, bear, and moose hunting alone add more than $175 million per year to the state’s economy (MOT & MDIFW, 2014). In this chapter, we investigate how big game species are managed; pinpoint pertinent human-wildlife conflicts; and describe the political, economic, and social influences affecting the three species. As icons of Maine’s forests, big game species are among the top priorities for conservation efforts. These animals require robust and detailed management practices in order to ensure their continued success. We suggest various ways to improve deer, bear, and moose management in Maine so that the state can continue to reap the benefits of big game species in the future.