LePage nominates former Cumberland lawmaker for conservation board

Howard Hill, the backdrop to the State House in Augusta, will be conserved in a project under the Land for Maine’s Future program. (Photo courtesy of the Kennebec Land Trust)

Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday nominated a former lawmaker who lost re-election in 2016 after heavy local criticism on conservation issues to serve on the board of the Land for Maine’s Future program.

Former state Rep. Michael Timmons, R-Cumberland, is LePage’s nominee to serve on the board. It steers public funding to conservation projects and has protected more than 500,000 acres statewide, but it has been a main point of contention between the Republican governor and environmentalists.

For much of 2015, LePage held up the issuance of $11.5 million in voter-approved conservation bonds, trying to get the Maine Legislature to agree to a plan to increase timber harvesting on public land to fund energy upgrades for low-income Mainers.

He eventually reversed course and said he’d issue $5 million in bonds toward 2015’s end. In early 2016, he compromised with the Legislature to revive the remaining $6.5 million that had expired.

The issue may have claimed Timmons’ political career: He was one of six Republicans who initially voted in 2015 to support a bill cutting the governor out of his bond-issuing role, but then switched their positions to support LePage’s veto. More than $250,000 for a conservation project in Cumberland was held up then, and the town manager blasted Timmons at a 2015 meeting.

Even without that baggage, Timmons was vulnerable in the election after winning by just 16 votes in 2014 and he was defeated easily in a rematch with Democrat Dale Denno of Cumberland in November.

The Senate has to confirm the appointment. Before that, Timmons will have a hearing before the Legislature’s agriculture committee.

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.