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.

Naked guy and other abuses cause landowner to post her land

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After posting three columns about the sad state of landowner relations in Maine, it’s time to start telling the stories of some long-suffering private landowners. After reading the initial columns in this series on landowner relations, Pam Wells emailed me her story.

Pam and her husband Bryan are members of the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine. Pam is also a very talented photographer. I’m including a few of her recent photos with this column, to brighten up what is otherwise a very distressing story. Here it is, just as Pam sent it to me.

Pam Wells

My name is Pam Wells and my husband (Bryan) and I own around 1000 acres of forested property in the Milford/Greenfield area.  The Sunkhaze stream runs through the center of it and into Sunkhaze Meadows NWR.  As you can imagine, we have a lot of people who like to use our property.  As a rule, we allow people to hunt, walk, fish, and enjoy our property, but it becomes more difficult each year.

Political hack or professional manager – Who will Governor LePage appoint as Parks and Lands Director?

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He must have known it was the end of the road. Will Harris, the cautious and capable Director of the Bureau of Parks and Lands, and one of the very few hold-overs from the Baldacci to the LePage Administration, spoke with remarkable candor and courage in late-March when questioned by legislators about the governor’s plan to harvest more timber on public lands and use the money for public heating assistance programs.

As I reported at the time, “Harris serves as the Director of Maine’s Parks and Public Lands, a gubernatorially appointed position. He can be fired without reason by the governor, making his remarks all the more astonishing. I haven’t checked this morning to see if Will is still on the job!”

Well, he did last a bit longer. But last week, Will’s retirement, effective at the end of this month, was announced. Insiders tell me he was forced out, but he must have been thinking about retirement that day in March.

Reviews of “A Life Lived Outdoors” are insightful and humbling – order it now for Father’s Day!

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A friend from church who lives in a nearby town just ordered four copies of my new book, for Father’s Day gifts for her father, father-in-law, and two brothers. Thank you Rachel!

Here are a few excerpts from reviews of my book A Life Lived Outdoors, published in March by Islandport Press in Yarmouth. You can buy the book at the islandportpress.com, and in most Maine bookstores. It’s even in a few restaurants, markets, and hardware stores!

Powerful Landowner/Sportsmen Advisory Board fails on all fronts

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In the search engine on the website of Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, I entered the words “landowner relations” to find information on the agency’s landowner relations advisory board. I was directed to a “site map” with a long list of programs, reports, and other information.

In the middle of the long list I saw “landowner relations” and clicked on it. This is what came up: We’re sorry but the page you requested cannot be found.

Sorry indeed. And indicative of how little attention is given to landowner relations in the agency that has been charged with maintaining a comprehensive landowner relations program. The program “cannot be found.”

Long Sad History

Tick, tick, tick: Three deer ticks before lunch yesterday – and one came in the mail!

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Yesterday morning I fished on my remote secret Smallmouth bass pond. Caught lots of fish, and took all precautions against bugs including ticks.

Hiked out and when I got to my vehicle, leaned down to pull my pants legs out of my socks, only to find a deer tick crawling up my sock. Squashed him.

Got home and went to the mail box to get the day’s mail. Pulled it out and found a deer tick on one of the envelopes! Squashed him too.

Stripped to take a shower, and like I always do, grabbed a small mirror to check my body for ticks. Sure enough, there was one on my backside. Luckily I could reach him, and he had only begun to attach, so I was able to pry him off with my fingers. Washed him down the sink.

Just another beautiful morning in Maine.

State Representative Jim Dill, our state’s foremost insect expert at the University of Maine, sent me this link to UMO’s information on ticks. You will want to check it out.

Remarkable landowner relations study and recommendations ignored for last 11 years

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 In 2002, responding to a flood of complaints from private landowners about ATV riders, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine conducted a nationwide study of landowner relations issues and solutions, and issued a report and recommendations in 2003. Despite the advocacy of many groups and individuals, those recommendations were never implemented.

The Executive Summary of the report concluded with these paragraphs:

The principles behind successful landowner relations programs are the same everywhere. They increase the benefits and decrease the costs for landowners who keep their property open to public use. They reward responsible land users and make irresponsible ones pay for their mistakes. They involve the community in the solutions.

Most important of all, landowner relations programs can help people understand that these conflicts threaten more than a handful of landowners or a few recreational sports. Without public access to private land, Maine would be a cramped, cold and unneighborly place to live.

While Maine’s landowner relations program founders, Mike Michaud and Eliot Cutler promise to do better.

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                For far too long, Maine has ignored the need for a comprehensive program and approach to landowner relations, and we have all paid the price in posted land and lost outdoor recreational opportunities.

                Today I’m starting a six-part series on this important issue. Each column will be accompanied by a question in my Sportsmen Say Survey, and the final column will include a report on the results of those surveys.

I encourage you to read all the columns, which you will find right here in George’s Outdoor News, and answer all the questions, which you will find in the Sportsmen Say Survey section of my website, www.georgesmithmaine.org. It will take a lot of us to fix this problem and assure that private land remains available for public recreation.

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