When a handful of balloons are released from a wedding party in Bar Harbor, a beaver miles away on Pushaw Lake in Glenburn chokes to death.  When a bunch of balloons are left floating away into the sky from a backyard graduation party in Bangor, some specie of marine wildlife in Penboscot Bay perishes.

The have to land somewhere, and normally it's miles and miles away.  Out of sight and quickly out of mind to those that released them in the first place.

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A couple of proposed bills, LD1023 and LD618 have been presented to Maine lawmakers, and currently reside with the Committee on Environmental and Natural Resources.  Both would outlaw the release of balloons for any reason whatsoever, besides for research of some sort or weather observations. Fines would vary between $100 and $500 for a first offense and then up to $1000 if you're caught again.

Unity

Deflated and semi-deflated balloons are forever being found by those that work on the waters and in the woods here in Maine.  It's not uncommon for a lobster fisherman out in open water to stumble across a group of balloons floating in the sea, or a wood cutter working in the woods above Baxter State Park to find a bunch twisted around the branches of a spruce tree once high above the ground.

Maine's wildlife is dying in the meantime. They find a deflated balloon and think it's food.  They eat it, and then choke to death.  Or, it becomes lodged within the animal's digestive system, and it then dies a slow and painful death.

Out of sight, out of mind?  Not for Maine's wildlife.

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Today these parks are located throughout the country in 25 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The land encompassing them was either purchased or donated, though much of it had been inhabited by native people for thousands of years before the founding of the United States. These areas are protected and revered as educational resources about the natural world, and as spaces for exploration.

Keep scrolling for 50 vintage photos that show the beauty of America's national parks.