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This is Governor John Baldacci.

It is hard to believe, but the first weekend of August is already here.

It seems like Memorial Day weekend and Independence Day were just yesterday. But as is the case every summer, the month of July seems to go by too fast.

And while we haven’t had much of a summer to speak of in terms of weather, we have been able to enjoy a few days of warm sunshine over the past couple of weeks, and there still is plenty of summer to go.

I talk frequently about Maine’s quality of life and abundant natural resources that bring folks from all over the world here.

And Maine has a number of nature-based tourism opportunities for people visiting our State as well as for Maine residents.

And there is a strong interest in Maine’s watchable wildlife, hiking, paddling adventures, and in our heritage and culture.

In 2005, a company specializing in Nature-based tourism development – was contracted to develop an extensive inventory of Maine’s natural resource assets.

Just some of the recommendations from that inventory were to:

n Have the State establish a Nature-based Tourism Initiative for rural economic development; n Provide a framework to support and complement local and regional efforts; n Demonstrate how nature-based tourism development can be planned and implemented across the State; and n Furnish visitors with information to fully experience Maine’s unique resources.

As a result of those recommendations, we established the Maine Nature-based Tourism Task Force. It provided a framework for this type of tourism development.

The report recommended that pilot regions for Nature-based Tourism be established in the areas of Piscataquis and Penobscot Counties; Down East in Washington and Hancock Counties; and Western Mountain Regions.

Once a variety of standards have been met, sites in these regions are identified with Maine’s Chickadee logo to signify a nature-based location.

Signs have already been placed to make it easier for visitors to find 20 of the best sites in Piscataquis County, including Gulf Hagas, Borestone Mountain Sanctuary, Sebois Bureau of Parks and Lands, and Mount Kineo.

In fact, you can find a full list of these sites online at www.themainehighlands.com.

This year, the Bureau of Parks and Lands has developed new maps of attractions in Washington County. You can find these maps through the Department of Conservation’s Web site at www.maine.gov/doc.

Additionally, Maine’s location and diverse landscape makes it one of the top year-round bird watching destinations.

The Maine Birding Trail was introduced this spring and quickly attracted a great deal of attention. The Maine Birding Trail is already the Office of Tourism’s most requested brochure, highlighting 82 of the top birding locations in Maine, with directions included.

In addition to the work done by the State, there are several private efforts that enhance our nature-based tourism.

n The Appalachian Mountain Club’s North Woods Initiative offers “Sporting Camp” – to – “Sporting Camp” hiking, skiing and mountain biking; n The Maine Huts and Trails has opened a second hut on its network of trails and will eventually cover 180 miles, with lodges providing comfortable beds and meals for hikers and mountain bikers alike. n The Northern Forest Canoe Trail stretches 740 miles from Old Forge, New York, to Fort Kent, Maine. The sections can be explored by day paddles, weekend excursions or longer camping trips. n And earlier this year we announced the creation of the Maine Woods Discovery Packages. Some of Maine’s top outdoor industry leaders collaborated for this effort, guiding visitors through a variety of outdoor adventures including fly-fishing, whitewater rafting, backpacking and gemstone digging.

And Maine is gaining a good amount of national attention for our nature-based tourism:

n The National Geographic Adventurer and Backpacker Magazine recently featured stories about hiking along Maine’s Bold Coast trail in Washington County. n And this month’s “Martha Stewart Living Magazine” lists Martha’s favorite 10 hikes in Acadia National Park as well as 10 other good hikes around our State.

And nature-based tourism is healthy, it’s fun and it’s local. We have the Disney World of natural resources right in our own backyard – and in many cases, you can find a great adventure suitable for a day’s drive or a weekend getaway.

So I encourage you to take time this summer to experience Maine’s outdoors before the summer’s end - and to fully appreciate the special features of the State that we call are all lucky enough to call home.

Thank you for listening and have a great weekend.

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