Earlier this week state legislators began discussion of bills designed to consolidate the state’s natural resources agencies into one (or more than one) new entity.
Thankfully, early debate indicated there was little support for turning four agencies — the Department of Conservation, the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, the Department of Marine Resources and the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources — into one mega-agency.
Count me among those who think there’s room for tinkering: the DIF&W and DOC and DMR have many similar aims and goals.
The state should look for places where there is needless redundancy at the agencies, or where agencies are pulling in different directions, and make some changes. Reassigning certain responsibilities from one agency to another makes perfect sense.
But instead of massive consolidation, we should strive first for unlimited cooperation. All the agencies should work together to find problems and inefficiencies and address them. And none of the agencies should worry so much about protecting their turf, territory and programs as some seem to do now.
Adding agriculture to the mix, and grouping that department in with the other three, however, is pushing the consolidation effort way too far. Thankfully, legislators recognized that.
Yes. All four agencies deal with natural resources, in one form or another.
The real question we ought to be answering: How big (you can also read that: “cumbersome”) do we want our natural resources agency to be?
If massive consolidation is necessary, why not go ahead and combine the Office of Tourism with the Department of Transportation? Tourists use our roads, after all.
Or why not fold the Maine State Police, the Maine Criminal Justice Academy and the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency in with the Department of Corrections? All have something to do with the law, or those who break laws, right?
Seriously (as I’m sure you can see), not all consolidation plans make much sense.
And at this point, some incremental changes — with more to follow over time — make a lot more sense than the wholesale dismantling of an entire system.
Yes, that system is imperfect.
Yes, it can be improved.
But combining dissimilar agencies and trying to convince the people of Maine how similar they actually are isn’t the way to realize those much-needed improvements.
State issues bird map, brochure
If you’re one of those Mainers who loves watching birds, the Maine Department of Conservation has come up with a product that will make your hobby even more enjoyable.
On Monday the DOC teamed with tourism and wildlife officials to unveil a new Maine Birding Trail map and brochure that is designed for casual and serious birders alike.
The effort was one of the first projects by the Maine Nature-based Tourism Initiative and lists 82 bird-watching sites around the state.
The brochure is the result of research conducted by Rep. Bob Duchesne of Hudson, who also guides fellow birders when he’s not in Augusta.
According to a DOC press release, Duchesne returned from a trip to Costa Rica and realized that in comparison to that country, there is relatively little emphasis on Maine natural resources as tourist destinations.
The DOC says a report indicates wildlife-watching contributes $1.5 billion to the Maine economy, and Duchesne said there’s plenty of room for improvement.
“If we could improve on that by 5 percent, imagine just how much money that would mean to our economy,” Duchesne said. “It should be clear that this is all about the money.”
The brochure is expected to be available at tourist information centers and selected state parks and will eventually be available on the Internet at www.visitmaine.com.
For more information, go to www.mainebirdingtrail.com.
More about moose …
Let’s face it: Sitting in a meeting hall for three hours, listening to the recitation of thousands of names, hovers around the “watching paint dry” level on the fun-meter.
Unless, that is, there are plenty of distractions.
Like food. And interesting exhibits. And more food.
The folks organizing this year’s moose permit lottery — it’s scheduled for June 18 at the University of Maine-Fort Kent — realize that, and they’re going to put on a good show. I promise.
But they’ll need a bit of help.
If you’re interested in being an exhibitor at this year’s lottery, the organizing committee is interested in talking to you.
A limited number of display tables is available for rent on a first-come, first-served basis. Preference will be given to outdoor-related exhibitors.
Each space will be roughly 9 feet by 3 feet and includes an 8-foot table. The rental rate is $25 per space. Electrical access will be limited to tables on the outer perimeter of the UMFK Sports Center.
Vendors will be allowed to set up their tables beginning at 10 a.m. on June 18. The doors will open at 2 p.m. for spectators and admission will be free. The drawing begins at 6 p.m. You can expect several hundred prospective moose hunters to attend, which could be good news for your business.
For more information, call the UMFK facilities management office at 834-7670.
And another thing …
One final word of advice for today (though, if you’re an avid angler, you won’t need it): Do yourself a favor and go fishing this weekend.
You don’t need much: A license, a brook or stream and a fishing rod, and you’re nearly equipped. Add flies or lures or worms, and you’re ready to roll.
Fish will keep biting for several weeks, but if last weekend’s foray into the woods is any indication, now is the perfect time to try to hook a few spunky brook trout in the brooks and streams in these parts.
Pack a lunch. Make a day of it.
And do yourself (and someone else) a favor: Take a kid along for the fun.