A major development is planned in a rural, lakefront town, sparking a heated debate among residents, developers, visitors, recreationists and environmentalists.
A remote fishing hole in a township so small it doesn’t have a name has become a haven for out-of-state boaters. Now the fear is that invasive plants soon will choke the shoreline.
An affluent suburb surrounding a pond once dotted with summer cottages has seen those camps converted to year-round homes requiring unanticipated services such as plowing.
On Maine’s lakes, these scenarios and the tensions they entail – between development and the environment, traditional ways of life and new forms of recreation, Maine natives and people “from away,” haves and have-nots – are all too real.
For Kathleen Bell, an associate professor of resource economics and policy at the University of Maine, the balancing act among economic, social and environmental systems is a rich research subject. Maine’s economy, demographics, institutions and climate are in constant flux. According to Bell, the state is at a turning point, and now is the time to study how these changes may impact Maine lakes and the uses they provide in the future. That chance has already passed in other parts of the country.
“Many natural resource management decisions are made in a reactive manner,” says Bell, the principal investigator on a three-year, interdisciplinary study of lake management, funded by a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “It would be great to break that pattern, identify win-win opportunities and strengthen the adaptive capacity of our landscape.
“Great things will come from moving beyond the polarized perspective of development versus the environment, and redirecting energies,” she says.