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Good day.

This week, I had the opportunity to do something I have never done before, and something that no other Governor has done since Ken Curtis did it over 30 years ago.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I climbed Mount Katahdin with my son, Jack, and a group of other hikers that included some of the state’s most thoughtful conservation thinkers, old friends and new friends.

After a brisk 3.3 mile hike to Chimney Pond Tuesday night, we continued to the top of Maine’s highest mountain on Wednesday.

It was a challenging climb both on the way up and, in some ways, even more-so on the way down.

We set out at about 6:15 in the morning to climb the Saddle Trail. We had some tremendous viewpoints on the way up the mountain, looking down on Chimney Pond and miles upon miles of conserved land from thousands of feet in the air. The most spectacular view was with the sun shining on the pond, as a star in the night of a cloudy, damp day. And, as we climbed higher, it quickly turned to more fog and rain.

But none-the-less, from the peak of Saddle Slide, which is about a mile before the summit, the views were still spectacular.

Standing on the top of the mountain I understood Gov. Baxter’s passion for creating and preserving the state park that today bears his name.

Something else that impressed me on the way up was the people we ran into. Young couples, parents with children, fathers, sons, mothers and daughters – people from Blue Hill, Deer Isle, Auburn, Portland and Millinocket – and all there to make memories and see what Governor Baxter saw so many years ago.

It occurred to me that many of the memories that are made on a trip like ours with your family and friends easily outlast the sore muscles and bad backs, and it’s the people that are remembered even as the views grow fuzzy in the mind.

I’ll never forget talking with our group after the hike to Chimney Pond as we stared up at Mount Katahdin in the bright sunlight of that basin, and how pristine and preserved it was, as if we were the first people to ever see it.

I won’t forget as Park Director, Jensen Bissell, and his very capable staff shared with us stories of this year. Especially when a hiker was lost and how patient his staff was in guiding her to safety. Even though it was a short distance away, it took over eight hours to get there and they never lost patience.

And while I’ll never forget the feeling I got when I saw the sign on top of “Katahdin Peak” 5,267 feet, I will also never forget the people who did it with me. Those memories will endure.

Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin are magical. They’ve drawn countless visitors and their natural beauty is awe-inspiring.

I have said this before, but it’s worth repeating: Our greatest duty is to prepare our children for the world they will face and protect the natural resources that they will inherit.

Each year, thousands of people are drawn to Maine because we’ve remained diligent to those qualities that set us apart.

Last year, the state worked with private donors and outdoor enthusiasts to add Katahdin Lake to Baxter State Park. The lake was always part of Gov. Baxter’s original vision, but it took more than 40 years to fulfill his vision, and it’s done.

During my time in office, we have also worked hard to preserve Maine’s special connection to the environment because we in Maine value clean air and clean water, and we’ve made investments to protect them.

In Maine growing our economy means protecting our quality of life and natural resources. It’s the legacy we owe our children and grandchildren.

Climate change is real, and its impacts will be drastic, the effects will reach into every part of our economy, changing our forestry, farming and fishing, and our recreational tourism forever.

As bad as it could be, by taking action now we can make a difference. We still have time to change.

Here in Maine, we’ve been leaders in fighting global warming and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Last year, the Legislature enacted my bill to formalize Maine’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. It’s the first cap-and-trade program to regulate and reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the country and a model for other regions to follow.

You don’t have to climb Mount Katahdin or make your living from the sea or the woods to understand how interconnected Maine is to the environment. It’s clear in every part of the state.

From our revitalized riverfront communities to our agricultural fields and pristine lakes, Maine’s future is tied to the land we walk upon, the water we drink and the air we breathe.

Thank you.

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