George's Outdoor News

George’s new outdoor issues blog. He goes all over the state. He listens. And he reports on issues of concern to sportsmen, conservationists, and environmentalists.

An Amazing Arizona Adventure

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Two weeks roaming southeast Arizona, focusing on the wonderful birds there and enjoying the stunning scenery as well as the nice weather, put us in a very good post-winter mood. Our May 1 Travelin’ Maine(rs) column, published May 1 in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, tells you about the first week and a half in Arizona. The column is available on the newspapers’ website.

In this column, I’ll tell you more about that part of our trip as well as what we did at the end of the second week in Arizona, before moving on to Terlingua and Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas. Our Travelin’ Maine(rs) column on May 15 will feature the Terlingua trip along with some travel tips.

Slaughter in Saddlebrooke

Legislature set to turn its back on Maine’s struggling outdoor industry

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 Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife must improve its communications with sportsmen, landowners, and the general public, and reinstate its marketing program. Our outdoor industry desperately needs DIF&W’s partnership and a bill endorsed unanimously by the legislature's Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee would get that partnership started. The bill, which reestablishes a marketing position and modest budget at DIF&W, was sponsored by Representative Bob Duchesne at my request.

Unfortunately, an amended version of the bill, which authorizes the marketing position for one year and takes the money out of the agency’s large surplus account, received a 7-6 ought-not-to-pass vote by the Appropriations Committee. Most Democrats supported it while most Republicans did not. The bill now goes to the full House and Senate, where – given that the governor is likely to veto the bill – it is going to take a super-human effort to win. This is very sad.

New law expands protection of Maine shooting ranges

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                 An amended version of a bill designed to protect existing shooting ranges has been enacted and signed into law by the Governor. “An Act to Protect and Promote Access to Sport Shooting Ranges” was proposed by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and sponsored by Representative Patrick Corey.

                The original bill sought to exempt shooting ranges from new rules and ordinances if they would cause the shooting range to close or substantially limit sport shooting there, and to give the ranges immunity from lawsuits. It would have also allowed the ranges to expand, including scheduling more events and increasing membership. Those provisions were set aside in the amended version of the bill. Here’s what the new law provides:

Hunting, fishing, and trapping get a boost from the legislature

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 The legislature has added 19 important words to the mission of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department that significantly strengthens the role that hunting, fishing, and trapping plays in the management of Maine’s fish and wildlife.

In mid-March I told you this story, which began with a proposal from the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine designed to discourage wildlife ballot initiatives like the 2014 bear referendum. DIF&W raised concerns about SAM’s proposal and it was set aside by the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee.

Don Kleiner, lobbyist for the Maine Professional Guides, created new language that SAM endorsed, and the IFW Committee amended that language down to the 19 words that won the unanimous support of committee members and ultimately, the support of the entire legislature.

Here is the first paragraph In Title 12, Section 10051, titled “Department established,” with the new language underlined:

Cold Stream may be Maine’s last wildlife habitat conservation project

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 It was great news for sure. After years of work, Maine has purchased the Cold Stream forest, 8,159 acres near the Forks that includes more than 3,000 acres of deer wintering area and lots of fantastic wild brook trout habitat

For more than a decade ago, Trout Unlimited, and the state identified Cold Stream as a priority.  It protects the trout fishery in the Kennebec and Dead Rivers, seven undeveloped ponds which make up the headwaters of Cold Stream, and 5 miles of Cold Stream itself. 

The Trust for Public Land and Trout Unlimited made the purchase, using a variety of funding, and transferred the land to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, where it has become part of the state’s Public Reserve Lands.

Buying your hunting and fishing licenses just got easier

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 What an improvement! After complaining for years about the complexities of purchasing my hunting/fishing licenses and permits online, it just got a whole lot easier. Last Friday I tried out the new system, which launched on March 1, and was even able to buy my wife’s fishing license in the same transaction.

The system is “now quicker, easier to use and packed with new features,” said Emily McCabe in a department press release. And I found that to be true.

“These improvements eliminate unnecessary steps and presents new purchasing options,” commented Bill Swan, DIF&W’s Director of Licensing. “We listened to user comments regarding the service and these changes should improve our customer’s experience.” Given that I’ve been one of the loudest complainers over the years, I’ve got to thank Bill and all who worked on this. Nice job!

Don’t miss this great wild game dinner for great causes

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Finally, I am able to attend Unity College’s very popular wild game dinner on April 8. I always seemed to have a conflict in my schedule, but I’ll be there this year, and you should join me. This is their 12th wild game dinner and it is now well known for fabulous food and fun. The event always sells out so you’ll want to order your tickets today.

The meal is prepared by the Unity staff and students, with the help of a celebrity chef, celebrates Maine’s hunting and fishing heritage, and raises money for worthy causes. This year the proceeds will benefit Operation Game Thief, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and the Unity College Sporting Station (the skinning and dressing shack for wild game).

Yes, they have a skinning shed, just one more reason to love this Maine college!

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