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.

Bill to lower hunting age stalls in the Maine Senate

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                 A bill that would eliminate the age limit for young Maine hunters whipped through the House last week without debate, but it has stalled in the Senate, threatening the possibility that Maine kids will finally get the same chances to hunt that kids do in most other states.

                “Thirty nine other states allow parents to decide at what age their child is ready to hunt – including our neighbors in New Hampshire and Vermont,” James Cote testified at the hearing on LD 156. Cote was retained by the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance to champion this bill, sponsored by Representative Gary Hilliard. All kids hunting under this provision would have to be accompanied and closely supervised by an adult hunter.

Hatchery fish are expensive and invasive - and most are never caught

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                With hatchery brook trout costing about $5 each, the guy who chases after the hatchery truck and catches and keeps his daily limit of 5 fish, gets back the entire cost of his annual fishing license in one day of fishing. And when he comes back the next day and catches and keeps five more fish, other sportsmen are paying for those fish.

                If someone came into a restaurant, paid $25 for a meal, yet was also allowed to come back every day after that and get the same meal for free, that restaurant wouldn’t be in business very long. We need major changes in the way we grow, stock, and price hatchery fish.

Hatchery Commission

Are Koi a serious threat to Maine’s native fish?

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 Maine currently forbids the possession of Koi fish, and Koi lovers arrived at the legislature today to argue that Koi should be allowed here, without a permit.

Allowing anyone in Maine to own Koi would “create jobs and revenue for Maine,” Phil Roy of Waterville testified at the hearing on LD 833, which would repeal the law forbidding possession of Koi in Maine.

Roy said that Koi, “will not threaten our local fisheries,” but he didn’t help his case much by comparing them to Goldfish, which he said, “are also on the aquarium list and have been sold in Maine for 50 years with no measurable impact on our local fishery.” DIF&W has had lots of problems with Goldfish released illegally in local ponds. When they find them, they take action to kill them, usually by draining the pond.

Debating dangerous rats, snakes, and other exotic animals

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In Boston, a woman got a full face transplant in 2011 after a ferocious attack by her employer’s 200-pound rampaging chimpanzee. She lost her nose, lips, eyelids, and hands, and later, doctors had to remove her eyes because of a disease transmitted by the chimp.

In February of this year, Florida officials declared war on invasive snakes, recruiting people for python patrols. A University of Florida herpetologist called the move, “ridiculous,” claiming “You can’t have Joe Schmo grabbing these snakes.” Kenneth Krysko also told a Reuters reporter that Florida’s move is too little, too late after Burmese python numbers mushroomed during decades when sales weren’t outlaws and wildlife agencies had few programs to deal with unwanted pets or snakes released in the wild.

Maine fees to hunt, fish, and trap may go up

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 Roles were reversed yesterday in Augusta, when sportsmen’s groups proposed a hike in their license fees and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife opposed the hikes. In the past, DIF&W proposed fee hikes, while sportsmen’s group usually opposed the hikes.

The bill under discussion yesterday at the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee was LD 913, sponsored by Rep. Mike Shaw at the request of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. The bill would increase hunting license fees across the board by $1, including combination hunting/fishing licenses, junior licenses, and even nonresident 3-day small game licenses.

The money would go into a new “Species Management Education Fund” to be used “to educate the public on the management of game species.” That education “must include information about how hunting and fishing helps to manage specific species.”

Amidst murder, mayhem, and tragedy, wildlife stories top the news state to state

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                 Whenever we travel, I like to pick up a copy of USA Today, principally for the State-By-State section that reports the top news story in every state. The April 22, 2015 edition was particularly interesting.

                In Alaska, I learned that the Division of Forestry was warning drivers to “limit their use of logging roads during the muddy breakup season.” Good advice for Mainers, too. In Arizona, the Four Forest Restoration Initiative has created a plan to “save swaths of forest from devastating wildfires” by removing small trees through logging and prescribed burning. Here in Maine, landowners are working on a similar plan to respond to an expected outbreak of spruce budworm.

Legislature hears twenty years of debate over St. Croix alewives – in one day!

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The 20-year fight over alewives in the St. Croix River returned to the State House today. Same issues. Same players. Very likely the same result. But there’s a hint of something more in the air – with an intriguing suggestion from Governor Paul LePage. More about that in a minute.

Like alewives returning to the St. Croix River, Washington County guides and sporting camp owners returned to the State House today to try to block sea-run alewives from getting into the lakes of the Grand Lake region. This issue has been kicked around at the State House since the mid-1990s and both sides remain passionate about their positions.

Currently the United States and Canada have acted together to open up the St. Croix River and Grand Lakes to alewives, causing the Down East guides to worry that the alewives will ruin their existing fishery, focused primarily on Smallmouth bass and Landlocked salmon, the principle fisheries in those lakes and the drivers of their regional economy.

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