Through campaigning and citizen advocacy, the Pine Tree Amendment (LD 429) gains ground as the Environmental Priorities Coalition (EPC) commits to furthering the essential proposal. The purpose is to place a mandate within Article I of the Maine Constitution that our environmental rights be protected by the government. Failure to follow through on the terms of the amendment, whether through action or inaction, will result in legal repercussions in order to hold officials accountable.
The Jan. 29, 2023 press release, written by devoted members of Maine Youth Action (MYA), further emphasizes the importance of promoting environmental justice and attaining a two-thirds majority vote from both the Senate as well as the House. Doing so would place the amendment as a statewide referendum on the November ballot.
The bill was introduced in 2021 but has carried over into the last legislative session as well as the upcoming one. Statutory adjournment will be June 21, 2023. The bill is sponsored by Senator Chloe Maxmin and a bipartisan group of co-sponsors.
Some members of legislature, speaking in opposition of the amendment, claim that the vagueness of its terms may be a means of stopping the construction of certain public works projects. They would like for the language of the bill to be less broad, so as not to complicate said projects in response to their potential effect on the land whether it be a damage of large or small scale.
The EPC represents over 120,000 members of the 37 state-wide environmental conservation organizations across Maine. They convene frequently to determine which bills should be collaborated on, promoted and prioritized on the Common Agenda for each legislative session. The Pine Tree Amendment has made that list, as the EPC has deemed it vital for the second time to set the seal on this legal pathway, which will legally ensure the protection of our delicate ecosystem.
Fourth-year biology, political science and English student Tamra Benson is a core organizer for UMaine Climate Action (UMCA) and Campaign Associate for MYA.
“The Pine Tree Amendment is special in that it offers an avenue of environmental protection while enshrining people’s basic rights to clean air, clean water and a healthy environment in the Maine Constitution,” Benson said.
MYA has worked on a multitude of social justice campaigns. According to Benson, through vast vocalization and the organization’s dedication, the community is nearing the attainment of viable solutions that will defend the planet from harmful environmental crises. Their main goals include passing bold climate policy, being heard by administration across the state, electing climate champions and most importantly, mobilizing and empowering a youth-led climate movement through legislative, political and electoral means. MYA is currently distributing yard signs that promote ratification of the amendment.
“We host MYA Volunteer Corps Calls every other Tuesday at 5 p.m. and PTA Volunteer Calls every other Thursday at 4 p.m. Anyone interested can reach out to me at any time,” Benson said.
According to Benson, the Pine Tree Amendment action is imperative to ensuring the preservation of natural resources and residents’ right to a clean and protected environment. It adds specific language to the Maine Constitution in order to secure the health of not only our generation but those to come.
“My future is directly connected to the future of the land. I would love to see the Pine Tree Amendment succeed in protecting the people and the land that I love,” Benson said.