George Smith's blog

Public Lands Director speaks with candor and courage on Governor’s timber harvest expansion

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Will Harris, one of the very few hold-overs from the Baldacci to the LePage Administration, spoke with remarkable candor and courage yesterday when questioned by legislators about the governor’s plan to harvest more timber on public lands and use the money for public heating assistance programs.

Harris serves as the Director of Maine’s Parks and Public Lands, a gubernatorially appointed position. He could be fired without reason by the governor, making his remarks all the more astonishing. I haven’t checked this morning to see if Will is still on the job!

Survey finds sportsmen share the same concerns as landowners – and Maine desperately needs a strong landowner relations program

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 NOTE: I have posted questions on this issue in my Sportsmen Say Survey, located on this website. After you read this column, please let us know your opinions on these critical issues!

Posting is increasing. We’re losing lots of land that was traditionally open to public recreation. This is what sportsmen told Jessica Leahy in her most recent survey.

Jessica is a University of Maine Forestry School professor and member of the Board of the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine. “After seven years and three landowner-focused surveys,” Jessica told me, “we felt it was time to do a land user survey and compare them to the past landowner results.”

It did not surprise me when she found that “most of the land users in our sample shared the same exact concerns and issues as landowners.” That’s really good news, I think. At least we all recognize the problems and concerns and issues.

Mainers consider shutting down bear hunting while other states expand hunting to manage out-of-control wild animal populations

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 We’ve got way too many wild critters in too many places. Many people can’t take it anymore.

The December 9, 2013 edition of Time magazine reported that bowhunting was authorized for deer within the city limits of Durham, North Carolina due to an outbreak of Lyme disease. Wild pigs can now be hunted in San Jose, California in the heart of Silicon Valley, and “despite protests and a spirited lawsuit, the fourth annual black-bear hunt was conducted… in New Jersey “in a six day hunt designed to cope with what has become a bear boom of unsustainable proportions.”

Last year, Jim Sterba, author of the fascinating book Nature Wars, was our guest on Wildfire, the TV show that Harry Vanderweide and I host. That show is still available on the website of Maine Audubon if you want to watch it.

Legislature considers protection for trout and salmon from gold dredging

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 Like a quiet western Maine stream that harbors one of the state’s most precious resources, a bill to protect the habitat of those trout by banning gold dredging is quietly working its way downstream through the legislature. But like the soon-to-be-stunning spring runoff of snow, LD 1671 is about to make a big splash in Augusta. Or maybe not.

Here’s the situation. A battle between brook trout advocates, led by Trout Unlimited and Maine Audubon, and gold diggers, led by the Maine Gold Prospectors, has been staged over the last couple of years. But unlike some legislative standoffs lately, this one has come to a great collaborative conclusion, and a compromise amended version of the bill has emerged from the Energy and Natural Resources Committee with a favorable 11 to 2 vote.

45 North is the crown jewel of dining spots at Sugarloaf

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Carrabassett Valley
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About a year and a half ago Boyne Resorts took over the food operations at Sugarloaf which had previously been run by a concession company. Chef Rob Keen and his staff at this mountain resort complex have been working hard to change the percentage of purchased product versus food made from scratch. Where once 80% of the resort-wide food was purchased, now 80% is made from scratch.


Governor wants to slam the door on federal government

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 It’s gotten no publicity, but next Tuesday the legislature’s Judiciary Committee will host a public hearing on Governor Paul LePage’s proposal to slam the door on the federal government. This will be a surprise to many. I certainly had not heard of it until someone alerted me to it yesterday – ironically at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

Sponsored for the Governor by Senator Doug Thomas, LD 1828, according to the bill’s summary, “amends the blanket consent that is statutorily given by the State to the Federal Government to acquire lands required for various government purposes. The bill limits the consent to the acquisition of land not exceeding 5 square miles.”

It appears that the Governor and Senator Thomas are aiming this at Elliotsville Plantation’s proposed national park adjacent to Baxter State Park. They might want to tread carefully here, because the Governor’s Office of Tourism has set ambitious goals to increase visitors to Maine this year.

Maine man’s walk across America filled with danger, colorful characters, beauty, and great stories

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 Somehow Nate Damm, tossing aside everything in his life to walk 3,200 miles across America, confused and alone, became a wonderful writer. Maybe it happened in Kansas, because despite all the warnings to avoid that state, Nate loved it. You tend to do well the things you love.

And finally, 3 years later, we have a book to prove that I am right about Nate’s writing. Life on Foot – A Walk Across America is compelling, often funny, sometimes sad, definitely inspiring.  And darn that Nate, he launched his book before I got mine out there. He beat me by four days! Somewhat ironically, my book is titled A Life Lived Outdoors. But my outdoor adventures can’t top Nate’s!

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