Klotz, 350 Maine's chief organizer, notes that the NRCM and the Sierra Club are cooperating with his group on the pipeline issue and on other global-warming concerns. (The "350" comes from the group's affiliation with 350.org, the international organization pushing for policies to reduce global-warming atmospheric carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million.)
Both the NRCM and the Sierra Club are opposed to the East-West Highway and are working to retighten the mining law. This effectively puts them in bed with radical Occupiers. Klotz, for example, received his political baptism with Occupy. For him, in fact, 350 Maine is "an Occupy working group."
The two wings of the movement complement each other. The two biggest groups, the NRCM and the Maine Audubon Society, have money, constant legislative presence, political respect, and realism (speaking of state legislation, Didisheim observes, "We pursue what we believe can pass"). The grass-roots groups' strengths include passion, intense focus, and the ability to bring in new blood.
Maine Audubon is seen among activists as more conservative than the NRCM. But it's opposed to the East-West Highway, and it supports tightening the mining regulations — though for Audubon the highway issue is not a priority, says Jennifer Burns Gray, Audubon's lobbyist. The group has not taken a position on the pipeline. Gray says it focuses on issues affecting wildlife and their habitat.
SOME DIVIDE PERSISTS
Not all divisions between the grass-roots activists and the environmental establishment have disappeared. The single-issue people tend to see the establishment groups as too conservative and too eager to compromise. For instance, while Stop the East-West Corridor is pushing for legislation to make it virtually impossible for state government to cooperate on highway projects with private corporations, the NRCM is only supporting bills to halt the present highway proposal.
It's a class thing, Jim Freeman says: the proper folks in organizations like the NRCM, Maine Audubon, and the Sierra Club "live more in a bubble" and don't mix with ordinary working people.
But the major division on issues among Maine environmental activists belies the class analysis — the development of windmills.
The flashing lights from "industrial wind" can be seen from all the mountains now, laments Jonathan Carter, who heads up the Forest Ecology Network and lives in Lexington, near the Appalachian Trail. He and some other grass-roots environmentalist types criticize the NRCM and Audubon for their support of mountain wind projects.
Both NRCM's Didisheim and Audubon's Gray use the same phrase to express their groups' support for windmills: they should be "appropriately sited." Both organizations have successfully opposed some wind projects, such as the turbines proposed for Redington Mountain, near Carrabassett Valley.
The division on wind power, however, most simply reflects the fact that, as an alternative to fossil fuels that pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, wind generation is popular among many rank-and-file environmentalists and, polls show, the general public — but it is not popular among hikers on Maine's lovely mountain ridges or the folks who live nearby.
Even Occupy organizer Lew Kingsbury, involved in the anti-East-West Highway and anti-mining campaigns, says of windmills, "They're not nuclear power. They're not going to kill anybody."
FROM DEFENSE TO OFFENSE
In spite of the NRCM's position on wind power, Carter says the group "tackles important work," citing its strong stand in the clash several years ago over Plum Creek's plan for Moosehead Lake, the state's largest inland water body.