April 20, 2018
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Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine prepares for season

By John Holyoke, BDN Staff

Just over a week ago the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine hosted its 16th annual Sportsman’s Congress, during which attendees discussed and debated a variety of outdoor issues over the course of five hours.

Policymakers, hunters, anglers, guides and outfitters, and Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife staffers joined SAM and outlined their “wish lists and roadblocks” for the year ahead.

Among the topics covered: Deer management and a new plan that SAM hopes will aggressively address the plight of the state’s deer herd; landowner relations; fisheries issues; and pending legislation that will affect sportsmen and sportswomen.

After an informative day of debate, discussion and legislative initiatives, here are some bits and bites from some of the attendees.

• “Bears are bears are bears.” — Gerry Lavigne, former deer biologist for the DIF&W, explaining his support for an “adaptive management” approach to deer management. Lavigne said delaying action while waiting for more data on things that have already been studied — in this case bears killing deer fawns each spring — stands in the way of progress.

• “If you try to cram Sunday hunting down the throats of landowners you’re looking at a whole new world.” — Tom Doak, executive director of the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine, cautioning recently retired SAM executive director George Smith, a longtime advocate of Sunday hunting in Maine, and other attendees. SWOAM members, Doak said, often allow hunters and recreational users access to their land, but continued initiatives that would allow hunting on Sundays is a nonstarter for SWOAM, as well as other large landowner groups.

• “We’re finding, just as we did about 50 years ago in a similar study, that 50 to 60 percent of spawning brook trout that ascend these tributaries, at Moosehead and at a couple of other waters, die in the course of that spawning activity.” — John Boland, DIF&W’s director of resource management, on a study that is ongoing in the Moosehead region, focusing on brook trout in Socatean Stream and the Roach River.

“When you start thinking about that, you have a better perspective, I think, about what it means to allow harvest and that sort of thing at that time of year,” Boland said.

• “It was a great year in the hatcheries. We stocked, I think, 377,000 pounds of fish, which is the new record. It’s probably as high as it will ever get. It was about 1.45 million fish” — The DIF&W’s Boland, updating attendees on hatchery activity in 2010.

• “We’ve now got six [job] vacancies in the fishery division. We’ve had most of those six throughout the year. And I’ll be honest with you, between that and the [state-mandated] furlough days, we’re down 28 to 30 percent in manpower in the fishery division, and it’s catching up.” — Boland, pointing out that a spate of recent retirements by fisheries biologists threatens to make it more difficult to do necessary field work.

• “I fished Sebago the other day, by the way, and was trying for small crappies and I caught a 10-pound pike.” — Boland, talking about the threat posed by non-native species that have been illegally introduced into many Maine waters.

• “I want to see some real respect for the hunting and fishing economy in this state. And that means not only from state government. I’ve been in business now for 25 years and have to go meet with my bank annually and I want to tell you, it’s never a pleasant meeting.” — registered Maine guide Don Kleiner, executive director of the Maine Professional Guides Association and a member of the Maine Tourism Commission, explaining that despite its economic impact, outdoor recreation is not taken seriously by many.

• “The general public believes that their tax dollars are funding the Department [of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife]. They are surprised and even stunned when they are told that their tax dollars don’t do that.” — Tom Abello of The Nature Conservancy, explaining his group’s involvement in a plan to seek a constitutional amendment to more fully fund the DIF&W from general fund money.

• “I think that we’re at a crossroads with this department. It’s changing all the time. It’s getting to the point where resources are diminishing its mission. We did stop a consolidation of natural resources agencies in the last [legislative] session. But I believe as time passes, if we do not resolve this [funding] issue, that Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, as I have known it, as a child, growing up into adulthood, to where we are today will disappear. And this agency will be consolidated one day.” — State Sen. David Trahan, R-Waldoboro, talking about the financial plight of the DIF&W.

• “From a landowner point of view, [prohibiting Sunday hunting in Maine] is a tradeoff. When we hear, ‘There are only seven or eight states that don’t allow hunting on Sunday,’ we say, ‘Well, how many states allow you to go hunting on somebody’s land without their permission? How many states have an open land policy where it’s assumed that you have permission to go onto somebody’s land, without their permission?’” — Doak of SWOAM.

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