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.

Will the legislature kick landowner relations down the road?

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                We have spent 10 frustrating years trying to create an effective and comprehensive landowner relations program at a state agency. This is so important to our present and our future, for all of us who recreate on private land. And that is all of us, isn’t it?

 

The Bill

 

Will the legislature act to save Maine’s hunting and fishing economy?

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                The recent study by national experts, paid for by the Maine Tourism Commission, didn’t really tell us much that we don’t already know. Here’s what we read about hunting in the first paragraph of the 128 page report.

                The number of sportsmen who come to Maine to fish and hunt, particularly hunters, is of concern due to the declining numbers over the past decade. In the most recent five-year period from 2009 through 2013, the change in numbers of licenses to hunt and fish in Maine has been mostly negative. Among nonresidents, Maine has lagged New England and the United States with a 20% drop in the number of hunting licenses, tags and permits (Figure E1).

 

Can Maine reverse the decline in its hunting and fishing economy?

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                 Eleven years ago, Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife received a series of marketing recommendations from national experts. None of the recommendations were ever implemented. In fact, since the study was received, the agency abolished its marketing position and budget.

                On Tuesday, April 28, the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee has scheduled a hearing on LD 668, An Act to Market Maine’s Hunting and Fishing Opportunities, sponsored by Representative Bob Duchesne at my request. This bill would establish a comprehensive marketing program at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, led and coordinated by a dedicated marketing specialist.

Battle of the St. Croix Not Settled Yet

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The Maine Legislature is about to RUIN some of the BEST fishing found in the North East. The Entire St. Croix River Basin is at Risk!

This huge black-highlighted text was at the top of a half-page newspaper headline in my Kennebec Journal on April 18, sponsored by the Grand Lake Stream Guide Association. The ad summarizes the Association’s case against allowing alewives to move from the St. Croix River up and into the Upper St. Croix Lakes.

I’ve been involved in this Battle of the St. Croix for two decades and it’s a fierce one. Initially, in the mid-1990s, when I worked for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, I testified in favor of a bill to block alewives from entering the lakes. And we succeeded. At that time, Maine’s Departments of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Marine Resources differed on the issue with DIF&W supporting the blockage and DMR opposing it. Our side won and a barrier was constructed to keep alewives out of the lakes.

Lyme disease breaks out at Maine legislature

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                 It’s a great bill addressing a tough disease, but it will have a tough time getting enacted, mostly because it’s a tax hike. I can only hope that legislators understand the terrible consequences of Lyme disease and the spread of ticks and other insects, and recognize the need for money to support the important work that would be funded.

Why doesn’t Maine value its spectacular native Brook trout?

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 It was bad enough when smallmouth bass migrated from Umbagog Lake into the Rapid River to threaten and compete with the river’s spectacular native brook trout. But now, the news is even more discouraging. Our own fisheries biologists have allowed inbred brook trout from a diseased water to infest the Rapid. Their stunning lack of appreciation for Maine’s native brookies is appalling.

Of course, I’m not surprised, given the many years it took the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to get the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to recognize and protect our native brookies. And we had to take the issue to the legislature to accomplish that goal.

Anglers who love the native brook trout in the Rapid River, just west of Rangeley, alerted me to this problem. Here’s what I’ve discovered.

One Maine hunting license could replace more than 60 licenses and permits – for just $38!

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We have a single fishing license. And it’s time for a single hunting license.

Let’s consider what fishing would be like if the licensing system had developed like the hunting license and permit system. We’d have a license for open water fishing and another license for ice fishing. Hunting licenses and permits are required for many different species. So we’d have a fishing permit for brook trout, another for landlocked salmon, a third for nonnative species including bass, maybe one for stocked fish too. Hunting licenses and permits are required for different types of weapons, so we’d have a fishing permit for fly fishing and another for spin casting. When we created fall fishing opportunities, we would have created a fall fishing permit, for sure.

Do you think a complexity of fishing licenses and permits would have encouraged more people to fish in Maine? Perhaps the simplicity of the single fishing license is one reason twice as many people fish as hunt in our state.

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