08/12/2011 05:50 pm ET | Updated Oct 12, 2011

The Road That Will Make All the Difference in the Maine Woods

Two roads are diverging in the Maine woods. Let's take the one that will make all the difference!

In the final days of June, two different pieces of legislation came before Maine lawmakers, and they put in stark relief our choices and our priorities. One path takes us in a circle right back to where we are now -- without jobs, looking in the rear-view mirror for solutions. The other path leads us forward.

The first road was a legislative resolve that gives Maine Governor Paul LePage authority to accept on behalf of all tax payers a "gift" of the Dolby Landfill in East Millinocket -- complete with $17 million of clean-up costs and unknown, unlimited future environmental liability. The billion-dollar corporations and foreign investment firms that are gifting us their polluted landfill said that if we don't accept it, they will board up the two paper mills in Millinocket and East Millinocket, where the unemployment rate is above 20 percent, and sell off the equipment.

The second road was a resolution opposing the acceptance a different kind of gift: thousands of acres of pristine wilderness, plus a $40 million endowment to create and maintain a national park in the Maine woods, just up the street from Millinocket, East Millinocket and the Dolby Landfill. This gift comes complete with economic benefits of jobs, new residents and businesses, in addition to preserving a national treasure.

The two paths -- one succumbing to corporate blackmail and clinging to the past, the other charging into the future with a bold vision that embraces change and aspires to add value -- highlight the conflict in America today about the role of government. One view is that government's function is to serve the interests of corporations. The other view is that government works to protect the public interest and for the public good.

Shall we take the first road because we hope it brings us back to when American paper mills employed thousands of people who lived comfortably within the confines of a union-protected paycheck, and when American patron landowners opened the gates to the forest for all to use? With rose-colored glasses shall we deny the realities of the unregulated global economy, and the availability of cheap labor overseas?

Or will we take the second road, the road to a magnificent national park and thriving gateway community, the path to jobs, community vitality and preservation of America's great forest, the road that will make all the difference for Maine people?