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The idea of public ownership and development of water resources gained considerable momentum in early twentieth-century Maine, first under Progressive Republican Governor Bert M. Fernald, and then again under Percival P. Baxter. In this article Christopher S. Beach explores critical turning points in Maine’s conservation history and suggests reasons why state leaders failed to grasp the opportunity to develop Maine’s water powers publicly. While popular pressures may have influenced resource policies, they could not alter a deeper commitment to decentralized government and private power in the state. Baxter, having generated impressive popular support, was frustrated by powerful constitutional constraints and by the process of legal politics.