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.

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.

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.

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