We applaud the decision by Maine Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt to abandon the Maine Department of Transportation’s effort to strip property rights from Sherman Marsh landowners in order to preserve the land and, in turn, receive credits to exchange for the destruction of wetlands elsewhere in the state.
If that sounds like a case of bureaucracy run amok, it was, in our eyes and the eyes of several of the landowners.
We addressed the project in this space in August of last year. Our position stands, stated then as follows:
“The purpose of the project strikes us as too abstract to justify the use of – or threat to use – eminent domain. The government should reserve this tool for the most direct and pressing needs.
“The conservation of a salt marsh to satisfy federal regulations and make up for adverse effects on wetlands elsewhere in the region does not, in our opinion, qualify as a direct and pressing need.”
The outcome of the Sherman Marsh Wetland Bank saga has a moral to it, we think.
We are fond of the saying “those who show up make the rules” and this outcome proves the point.
It can seem hopeless to oppose government.
Sometimes it seems like a steamroller and the best course of action seems to be to get out of the way.
Sometimes a bad project goes on despite opposition.
And sometimes a project some people oppose needs to happen because it will benefit the public as a whole, even as it inconveniences the few.
But by and large, government does listen around here.
Your local board of selectmen or planning board will hear you out on any project before them, and most local officials we encounter will carefully consider what their constituents have to say.
Even a bureaucratic behemoth like the DOT has shown time and again its willingness to listen to the public and adjust its plans – the South Bristol bridge project and the ongoing discussion about the Wiscasset traffic project are two examples.
But to adjust its plans, the DOT – or any government entity – needs to hear from you, the citizens.
Sherman Marsh landowners showed up time and time again to voice their objections to the project.
With the support of town officials and local legislators, their persistence stopped this unnecessary and harmful project.
Congratulations to the landowners and their supporters. To everyone else: pay attention. And when it’s your turn, show up.