Over the past 50 years or so we’ve done a pretty good job of saving eagles and ospreys from DDT, coastal forests from developers, clam flats from sewage and sand dunes from inappropriate construction projects. Not that we’ve done all we could do — far from it — but in these areas and others, Maine has shouldered the always heavy burden of protecting its natural treasures.

Now it’s time to do something for people. This state’s working waterfronts, all 24 miles of them along some 6,000 miles of coastline, are as endangered as anything furred or feathered, rare or nearly extinct.

The November ballot includes two important initiatives, each designed in different ways to help secure the future of Maine’s working coast. One, a bond issue, would provide vital funds to buy wharves or other important “working” infrastructure. The $2 million for this purpose in the bond issue is laughably small, of course, but through the magic of “leverage” the money would, supporters hope, pry loose other funds to help at least a few fishermen or waterfront businesses stay where they are, holding off big-bucks purchasers who would convert working properties to non-working purposes. The logic is simple and direct; even if the funds won’t be sufficient for more than a pilot project or two, the bond issue is a start. It deserves everyone’s support on Nov. 8.

The second initiative is an amendment to the state constitution, adding language to allow properties associated with the fishing industry to be taxed at their current use, rather than at the “highest and best” rate that’s now required. It’s an expansion of the current-use taxation that’s now allowed only for properties used for farming, forestry and the preservation of open space. Like the bond issue, it deservers everyone’s vote on Nov. 8.

Both initiatives are, in effect, investments in Maine’s future. The bond issue is the direct kind, directing the state to borrow sufficient funds to accomplish the purpose — in this case purchasing properties or development rights to protect working infrastructure, so people can still have jobs in Maine’s harbors. The constitutional change is the indirect kind: the loss in property tax revenue that would result from granting current-use status to owners of fishing-related properties will have to be made up elsewhere. In our view, it’s a tax shift well worth making.

The character of Maine’s coast, historically accessible to thousands of ordinary people as a place to earn a living, is at stake. How we vote on Nov. 8 will speak volumes about what kind of state we want to be.