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.

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!

Goals of Maine Game Plan for Deer remain elusive and expensive

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 While Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife does a good job of researching and managing deer, the state’s Game Plan for Deer appears to be achieving little and costing a lot. A March 6 “Benchmark Report” on the plan, presented to the legislature’s IFW Committee on March 6, is not very encouraging.

I have posed a series of questions to the professionals at DIF&W, based on what I read in the report, and hope to have the answers for you in the next column on deer. This is my third in a series on deer management and issues. Here are a few highlights in the report that jumped out at me.

Sportsmen take aim - at themselves

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 The question came from a good friend. “I have to ask: are you helping the Humane Society of the United States on the bear referendum?”

I should say I was stunned, but actually, the question didn’t surprise me. I’ve been hearing it occasionally since the 2013 legislative session when HSUS announced it would initiative a ballot measure to ban bear hunting with bait and dogs and bear trapping. Some poorly informed people are spreading this rumor.

The question is preposterous, given that I’ve spent my life advocating for hunters and anglers. But it is illuminating.

Sportsmen are their own worst enemies. We aim our guns at each other, wasting our ammunition, jeopardizing our cause. Bow hunters battle crossbow advocates. Guides criticize sporting camps for winning the chance to purchase a few moose permits. Fly fishermen fight ice anglers. Some hunters are protesting the legislature’s decision to give 25 percent of the any-deer permits this year to junior hunters.

Spruce budworm may wipe out remaining deer yards

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“This slow moving hurricane is on its way and will be here for a while.”

That’s the ominous prediction of Dan Wagner of the Cooperative Forestry Unit at the University of Maine, reported in the Bangor Daily News. The Unit was actually organized in 1975 during the last spruce budworm epidemic.

I monitored the massive spraying that tried to stop the spread and damage of the Spruce Budworm in the 1970s, on behalf of Congressman David Emery. In fact, I was in the north woods when one of the bombers, used to spray the forests, crashed into Eagle Lake. I flew over the plane to see it. They had to take it apart to get it out of the lake and forest.

The subsequent death of a lot of fir trees, and the massive cutting to harvest those trees before they died, and the roads that were built to accomplish that, all took a toll on the North Woods habitat and the critters that depend on it.

Less than 100,000 Mainers hunt or fish every year

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The report shocked me. As several of us looked it over, we agreed, the information couldn’t be right. So I asked Bill Swan, Director of Licensing for Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, to step out into the hall and go over it with me.

Turns out Bill’s report was correct. Less than 100,000 Maine residents buy a hunting or fishing license, or both, each year. That’s a pretty small base of sportsmen, especially considering there was a day when almost every Maine household held at least one hunter and angler.

The information came in a report Bill presented yesterday to the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, on a professional study of a proposal to expand lifetime licenses. The study found that only 70,000 residents purchased a hunting license in each of the last five years, and only 60,000 residents purchased a fishing license in each of the last five years.

Goals for Maine’s deer and deer hunters may be unrealistic

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NOTE: I’ve posted a question for you in this website's Sportsmen Say Survey section on this deer yard protection issue. The question is: Is it fair to expect private landowners to protect deer wintering areas – and give up the value of the timber in those areas – without compensation? Your responses will be shared with landowners, DIF&W, legislators, and the news media. Thanks!

Deer Series

We’ve lost 100,000 deer hunters and now harvest about half of the deer we did forty years ago. Sportsmen cast a wide net of blame for this, from coyotes and bears to private landowners. Perhaps our expectations have always been unrealistic.

This column is the first in a series on deer. When the series is completed, I hope we all have a more realistic understanding of what we can achieve – because I was born a Maine deer hunter and deer hunting remains my favorite outdoor activity. I even purchased two woodlots to assure that I would always have a place to hunt.

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