Riding the wind at the Maine legislature - it's all about scenery

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The hearing room and the hallway outside were crowded with friends and foes of wind power today as the legislature’s Committee on Energy hosted hearings on two wind power bills. I got there early and snared one of the last seats. The hearing lasted all day with lots of proponents and opponents on both sides of the issues.

Even the environmental community was divided, with the Appalachian Mountain Club supporting the bills – one of which would substantially toughen the standards for scenery for wind tower developments (that’s the bill that drew most of the testimony) – and Sierra Club, Conservation Law Foundation, and Environment Maine opposing the bills.

I hung around all day and finally got to speak at 4:30 pm. Here’s what I had to say, focused on LD 1147 – the bill on scenery.

My Testimony

Moose Applications Down – Moose Population May Follow

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While Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife increased moose permits this year, applications declined.

DIF&W’s moose biologist Lee Kantar told legislators a year ago that he is confident Maine now has 75,000 moose. And although he opposed legislative bills calling for significant increases in permits this year, Lee did nudge up the number of permits.

Yet, surprisingly, interest in the hunt is on the decline. A total of 52,604 applications were received for moose permits in 2013, a 3 percent decline over 2012. Nonresident applicants declined most steeply, by 4 percent, dropping to 14,040. Applications from residents totaled 38,564, a 3 percent decline from the previous year.

This is, of course, a far cry from the 94,532 applications received in 1994. In that year, 74,424 residents applied for moose permits and 20,108 nonresidents.

Murder and mayhem in a small Maine town

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At a Christmas party hosted by Islandport Press for its authors, staff, and friends, I met William Andrews. And when he told me he’d written two novels, set in a small rural Maine town, I charged out into the warehouse and grabbed them off the shelf.

At that point I didn’t know if Andrews was a good writer – in fact, I really didn’t know who he is – but I’m a sucker for any book about Maine, fiction or nonfiction. Turns out he is a very good writer. I especially loved the extensive dialogue in both novels.

I guess I should not have been surprised, because he is the former president of Westbrook College and a longtime freelance editor and writer. He’s even authored three textbooks on management communications.

Legislature shoots down comprehensive hunting license

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Good ideas often take many years of persistent advocacy before winning legislative support. Someday Maine will offer an inexpensive easy-to-obtain comprehensive hunting license. But not in the next two years.

The legislature’s Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife unanimously killed LD 153, a bill to establish a single hunting license covering all hunting opportunities that Representative Dennis Keschl submitted at my request, despite the fact that a survey of hunters by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife found overwhelming support for the proposal.

Quite a few of the committee’s members actually supported the bill, but the inevitability of its defeat, and the lingering concern that many hunters would pay more than they do today for their hunting license, killed the bill. Governor Paul LePage had made it known that he would veto the bill if it was enacted, so there was little reason for legislators to stick their necks out on this controversial measure.

Escaping the ice and snow at Portland's Mariott at Sable Oaks

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The Portland Marriott at Sable Oaks was a great escape from the ice storm.

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I hid in Frankie's Place during the Christmas ice storm

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When Jim Sterba handed me a copy of his autobiographical book, Frankie’s Place, shortly after we finished taping an episode of Wildfire last August, and said something modest like he hoped I’d like it – it was about their summer place on Mount Desert Island - I was skeptical. In fact, I put it aside until the Christmas ice storm when I was perusing my shelf of unread books and came across it.

Jim was a foreign correspondent for decades for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He was on Wildfire, the TV talk show I host with Harry Vanderweide, to discuss his terrific book, Nature Wars. You can find my review of that book in this section of my website. And you can access that Wildfire episode on Maine Audubon’s website.

Maine’s deer habitat goals are unrealistic and unattainable report forestry experts

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A new study by several forestry experts at the University of Maine is depressing for all who are counting on more deer in the northern forest.

“State-level management goals for white-tailed deer may need to be readjusted to reflect the profound habitat changes that have occurred on commercially managed forestlands in the Northern Forest Region from 1975-2007,” is just one of several discouraging recommendations and findings in this report.

Titled the “Effectiveness of State Regulations to Protect Deer Wintering Habitats in Maine,” the study focused on whether or not the designation of LURC-zoned deeryards achieved desired objectives during the period 1975-2007.

Principal investigator Daniel Harrison, a widely respected longtime professor and forestry expert at UMO’s Wildlife Ecology Department, was assisted by several co-investigators in the School of Forest Resources. The study was funded by the Maine Cooperative Forestry Research Unit at the University of Maine.

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