Growing up on my family’s farm in Nobleboro, I was raised with a deep appreciation for our natural environment and all it provides for us. Here in Maine, we rely on our environment for many things. We depend on it for recreation, from skiing, boating to hiking in the great Maine woods.

Our environment is the basis for many of our biggest industries, including fishing, farming, forestry and tourism. It gives us air to breathe, water to drink and soil to grow and raise our food.

But we know our environment is under threat from climate change and pollutants. If left unaddressed that threat will disrupt every element of our economy, our culture and our health. Finding a solution to this problem must be a priority for all of us.

That’s why I’ve introduced a bill, LD 489, also known as the Pine Tree Amendment, to enshrine the right we all have to clean air, pure water and a healthy environment.

For the past 16 years, I’ve worked as a community organizer, focusing on combating climate change and ensuring a resilient Maine. In that time, I’ve become well acquainted with the threats our environment and our health are already facing.

A changing climate has made growing seasons unpredictable for farmers, and as summers get drier, drought threatens crops – an issue we saw in Maine this year. The waters in the Gulf of Maine are warming faster than 99% of the global ocean, threatening our fisheries.

A lack of regulation in the past several decades has left our water and ecosystems burdened with PFAS from industry. Our bodies can’t break down PFAS, which is why they are known as “forever chemicals,” and their presence is linked to cancer, hormone disruptions, cholesterol problems and more.

The Pine Tree Amendment would add an amendment to Maine’s Constitution to guarantee the right to clean air, pure water and a healthy environment, in addition to ensuring the preservation of the natural, cultural, recreational, scenic and healthful qualities of the environment.

If adopted, Maine would not be the first state to take this step. Pennsylvania and Montana have already passed similar amendments, and 10 other states are currently considering doing so. By solidifying these rights in a constitutional amendment, we can ensure that no Legislature, Governor, law or permit can take these rights away. As individuals, we can sometimes feel powerless against government and big business when they act against our interests.

By passing a constitutional amendment, we can make sure that generations of Mainers to come can enjoy what we often take for granted, no matter what the political whims of the day are.

The Pine Tree Amendment has a broad coalition of supporters, and is sponsored by Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Dozens of individuals and organizations submitted testimony in support of the amendment, including scientists, farmers, students, business owners and activists from across the state.

The ACLU, Penobscot Nation, Sierra Club, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardiners Association, and the Maine Conservation Voters all support this bill. Just as we expect our other rights to be protected by our Constitution, there’s a growing consensus that our environmental rights need to be protected in the same way.

Last week, the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee gave the Pine Tree Amendment a positive vote, sending it to the full House and Senate for votes. If two-thirds of both chambers vote to pass it, the final step is a referendum where all Mainers can have their voices heard.

If the Pine Tree Amendment makes it onto your ballot, I hope you will decide to support it. In the meantime, please write to your state senators and representatives urging them to support this bill. I truly believe this amendment is absolutely necessary for protecting our future.

If someone has a perspective on the Pine Tree Amendment would like to share, has ideas about how we can combat climate change or has an issue I can assist with or just want to connect, don't hesitate to reach out.

Email me at Chloe.Maxmin@legislature.maine.gov or call me at 200-6224. Those interested can also follow me on Facebook at facebook.com/ChloeForSenate and sign up for regular email updates at mainesenate.org.