Maine wildlife management deserves to be praised

Posted Nov. 12, 2010, at 6:11 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:37 p.m.

In his column, “In Maine, resources are for all” (BDN, Nov. 9), outdoor outfitter Bob Mallard takes aim at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife by writing a litany of negative statements that either are incorrect or are issues that have been positively addressed.

Administrators and employees have spent countless hours responding to Mr. Mallard’s communications. His particular interest is fly-fishing, and he has asked that policies reflect that all fish should be caught and released and not be for consumption. The department, however, serves many different interest groups.

Little is gained by circulating misinformation. It’s a disservice to department employees, and does little to promote the value and richness of Maine’s outdoors for those, like Mr. Mallard, who count on our natural resources for their livelihood.

DIF&W is one of the smallest state agencies, and is funded primarily by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, and ATV, boat and snowmobile registrations — activities that have a $2.4 billion economic impact. It receives only a fraction of its budget from state tax revenue, down significantly during recent budget cuts. Yet, we still maintain the high levels of service for all Maine residents and visitors.

Our efforts show. Anglers are experiencing world-class fishing opportunities. Hundreds of people are contacting us daily for information. More than 6,000 people follow us on Facebook.

Most importantly, license sales are steady. From 2003 to 2009, fishing license sales increased 11 percent while hunting license sales decreased 2.5 percent. Overall, combined sales increased 4.5 percent. In comparison, New Hampshire’s sales are down by double-digit percentages.

For more than 30 years, the individuals who have led DIF&W have come from a diverse professional background: farming, conservation law enforcement, academia, wildlife biology and public administration. Each administration has faced challenges, with its decisions questioned, challenged or applauded.

Mr. Mallard attempts to discredit the current administration’s leadership, taking particular exception with the appointment of Paul Jacques as deputy commissioner. He states that by statute the position should have been filled by someone who is formally trained or be in fish and wildlife biology; a statute that Mr. Jacques helped write. Before accepting the appointment, Mr. Jacques requested that his qualifications be vetted by legal counsel to ensure law compliance and he was cleared. The deputy commissioner is former chair of the Legislature’s Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, former Maine Registered Guide and an avid outdoorsman.

Over the last eight years, the current administration has addressed personnel and policy issues it has faced in an appropriate and professional manner. Projects have been prioritized and work is being completed by an educated staff with extensive careers in fish and wildlife biology.

The Maine Warden Service is experiencing an uptick in recruiting as respected law enforcement officers from other municipal and state agencies look to join its ranks.

Maine is setting the example for responsible policies on Canada lynx, bear and other species management, and other states are considering similar stances.

The state has some of the strongest laws in regards to live fish possession, importation and private stocking regulations, which provide barriers to illegal introduction of fish species to waters. Other states are experiencing a greater influx of non-native species introductions and fish diseases, and are seeking our advice.

Maine is the only state in the continental U.S. that has native arctic char populations, and DIF&W monitors those populations, and has actually increased them over the last 30 years. Last month, the department and its partners performed the most extensive reclamation project in our history at Big Reed Pond, and native char and brook trout will be reintroduced next spring.

Also, Maine continues to be the stronghold for wild brook trout populations containing 97 percent of the lake and pond populations of brook trout in the eastern United States.

Our fish and wildlife resources are what make Maine special. Their management is not without challenges. Successes, though, should be heralded and not ignored — for all of our benefit.

Roland “Danny” Martin is commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

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