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.

National Guard called out on Land for Maine’s Future spot

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This story would be funny if the issue were not so serious. Ben Townsend of Chelsea emailed the story to me last week after I wrote a newspaper column criticizing Governor Paul LePage for withholding bonds needed to complete Land for Maine’s Future projects. I am certain I don’t have to tell you about that controversy!

But here’s one element of it you don’t know. Ben Townsend has been providing free legal services to the Clifton Climbers Alliance. Ben told me that the Alliance is “a Maine nonprofit that was formed in January of 2014 for the primary purpose of purchasing Eagle Bluff in Clifton, following the untimely death of its previous owner, who had generously permitted public access.”

Ben reports that Eagle Bluff is a 165-acre parcel that “hosts not only popular hiking trails but a rock climbing area that has been widely recognized as a premier recreational resource.” It’s important to note that the town of Clifton and its local officials enthusiastically supported the project.

Forest Director speaks out on forest harvesting and recreation issues

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Doug Denico is a long-time friend of mine. You need to know that before proceeding to read this outdoor news column. Doug, the Director of the Bureau of Forestry at Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry, has been under fire lately, mostly because of Governor Paul LePage’s decision to hold up funding for Land for Maine’s Future projects in order to win support for harvesting more timber on public lands and diverting some of the money to fund a program to provide heat for low-income Mainers.

Ugly and personal bear debate at legislature today

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Two bills to ban bear hounding and trapping drew a small crowd to the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee hearing room today – and some of the testimony was terribly ugly.

Sally Smyth of Camden asked IFW Committee members to “think of the long male tradition of trying to keep women from voting, working, or obtaining an education – these ‘traditions’ are now outdated and those who profess them not just ‘politically incorrect” but simply deliberately ignorant. Think of slavery, that southern ‘tradition’… so fiercely defended.”

That offended many of the members of the IFW Committee, and they responded, politely, but strongly.

Smyth attacked the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine stating, “They expect their hunting camps to stay in business when their traditions are out of date. They want to represent ‘Mainers’ when their practices of snaring and hounding are simply ugly to their fellow citizens.”

Fight over Bears Moves to Legislature on Tuesday

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                 While a host of controversial issues, from mining to marijuana, may dominate the legislative debate this week, the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will host a hearing on two bear bills that are sure to draw a crowd. I expect the debate to be tiresomely identical to the one we had last fall when the Humane Society of the United States lost its bear initiative on the ballot.

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.

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