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 puts the brakes on two dozen conservation projects.

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The room was packed, most unusual for a meeting of the Land for Maine’s Future Board. Extra chairs were squeezed into the small room, bit some folks still had to stand. The news that Governor Paul LePage was refusing to permit the LMF Board to use bond money to complete its projects drew attention from the media, environmental and sportsmen’s groups, landowners, and legislators. Today, unfortunately, we learned that the news was true.

Fascinating stories from the other end of Dana Wilde’s driveway.

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Dana Wilde’s stories are cerebral, serene, and oftentimes fascinating. Most fascinating for me, in his book The Other End of the Driveway, are stories about wild creatures including Blue jays, Hummingbirds, Horseshoe crabs, and spiders. Yes, spiders can be fascinating!

Consider this from the spider story. This is not paranoia. I’m being watched… involuntarily I glance back… and for no reason my eyes fix on the eave above the door. Upside down there in her web is a huge garden spider… She’s not after me. But still. She looks huge and witchlike, with her eight eyes seeming to scope my every move and thought.

Eight eyes? Yikes!

We know when and where they die - Collared moose tracked on Google

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“If we just took the (dead moose) results of last year, we would have concerns. And we do have concerns, but it’s going to take some time” to figure this out.

Those were the words of Lee Kantar, moose biologist for Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, who briefed the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee on March 3, 2015. Lee was talking about his “Moose Survival Project.” This year he is tracking about 70 collared moose using helicopters.

Last year the department collared 30 adult cows and 30 calves. Nine of the cows (30 percent) and 21 of the calves (70 percent) died by the end of last winter from tick infestations. That shocking result caused the agency to sharply reduce moose permits in 2014 from 4,100 to 3,095, an unprecedented reduction in a single year. Permits have been reduced by another 270 this year.

Harry Vanderweide's long battle with chronic Lyme disease

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 Yesterday morning, I sat down with my long-time friend and colleague, Harry Vanderweide, to write his Lyme disease story so it could be shared with legislators next Tuesday at a public hearing on a Lyme disease bill. Harry is probably the state’s best-known sportsman. He edited The Maine Sportsman magazine for four decades, hosted his own outdoor TV show for 25 years, and was a founder of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. For the last 14 years Harry has co-hosted the TV talk show Wildfire with me. I have been blessed to have hunted and fished with Harry for a very long time. And it has been tough to see the impact of Lyme disease as Harry has struggled with it over the last 5 years. Here is Harry’s story, in his own words, as he told it to me yesterday.

Harry’s Story

Lyme Disease news is all bad and getting worse

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Lyme disease – delivered by deer ticks – is a growing problem in Maine and the nation. When a legislative committee hosts a hearing next Tuesday on An Act To Improve Access to Treatments for Lyme disease, committee members better be prepared for some horror stories.

I talked with the bill’s sponsor, Representative Deb Sanderson of Chelsea, earlier this week about her concerns and her bill. But before I get to that, consider the most recent news.

Snow Helped Ticks

Ho Hum Hearing shows little interest in Fish and Wildlife Budget

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Even I was surprised to find myself the only one testifying in support of the new biennial budget for Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. After Commissioner Chandler Woodcock spent about 40 minutes presenting the highlights of his budget to the Appropriations Committee and Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, Appropriations Chair Senator James Hamper made a joke that the sign-up sheet indicated a lot of folks were eager testify on the budget.

And then he called on me – telling committee members that I was the only one who was there to testify. I told the committees that the lack of visible support and testimony for the budget probably was all they needed to know about how discouraged agency advocates are in trying to advance the important work of this department.

Here’s what I had to say.

Governor breaks promise, withholds funds, and threatens conservation projects

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Governor Paul LePage is withholding more than $11 million that would allow 41 outstanding conservation projects to be completed – even though he promised to fund these projects as part of a deal to pay off state debts to Maine hospitals in 2013, and despite the fact that 60 percent of Maine voters approved the bonds in 2010 and 2012 that authorized this money.

While members of the Land for Maine’s Future Board – all of whom were appointed by Governor LePage – are in the dark on this, many legislators and lobbyists have heard the news and have been talking about it for the past couple of weeks. Last week a key legislator in the know confirmed for me that the Governor is indeed doing this. The Governor has not issued an announcement or even an acknowledgement of this, so I am hopeful that he will change his mind and allow these terrific projects to be completed.

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