CONTRIBUTOR

Land use wars

Posted April 06, 2011, at 8:37 p.m.

We are living in strange times indeed. In our fine state, laws are being passed, continually, that will forever negatively affect the woods and wilds of Maine.

As an example, the Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife recently heard a bill designed to protect landowners’ rights against people who use packs of hounds to chase and kill bears, coyotes and bobcats. These same hounds are also used to go into dens of coyotes and tear the pups apart.

This is considered by some tiny minority as both important and sport. The belief that coyotes are playing a big part in the dwindling deer population in northern Maine is a myth that those who take part in these activities wrongly believe. Biology, history and common sense should prevail, not fearmongering.

The bill would have made it law to have written permission to take part in these activities on private property. Reasonable, you say? Not so to the IF&W committee, which defends the tiny minority of extremists they see as the victims.

They do not respect the constitutional rights of the landowner or the rights of wild animals to exist for their own purposes, not just those of humans. They defend this constituency’s activities to be more important than the rights of the landowner, preserved in Article I, Section 1 of the Maine Constitution, and render the landowner impotent in the right to control what goes on within their own property boundaries.

It is little wonder when you look at the makeup of those who are involved. When Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville and the co-chairman of the committee that decides what wildlife-related bills will and won’t pass in Augusta, also holds the position of treasurer for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. That same organization’s executive director, Matt Dunlap, is Maine’s most recent former secretary of state. Can you say “conflict of interest”? How about “the fix is in”?

Four more bills will be heard on April 11 to allow hunting of one sort or another on Sundays, against the wishes of the majority of Maine residents.

My organization, the Wildlife Alliance of Maine, commissioned a survey in October 2005 seeking Mainers’ opinions on Sunday hunting. We did this through a nonpartisan polling company, Critical Insights. The poll showed 75 percent of Mainers do not want Sunday hunting — period.

Hunters have the ability to hunt and kill something almost every day, and most nights, year-round in our state. There is one day, Sunday, that both humans and animals have to allow some peace and quiet — time for life, for a brief moment to go back to normal, without gunshots, trespass and all the other things, legal and otherwise, that are a growing  part of consumptive sports in Maine.

The DIF&W committee pits landowners against hunters in our state. They continually ignore the wishes of the majority of the people who own Maine’s wildlife and favor the wants of a declining population of hunters and trappers who often disrespect the landowners they rely on for access.

For the past 10 years, we have seen more and more land posted, and I see this trend continuing with the current leadership in Augusta. Pushing Sunday hunting will only exacerbate an already volatile issue.

We are seeing greater and greater dissatisfaction on the part of landowners, who feel almost under siege at times on their own property. It is time to send a clear message. There should be no Sunday hunting, ever.

Permission should be required for access to private land, not the reverse, as statutes currently mandate. The continued disrespect by a minority who are giving the traditional hunters in Maine a bad name is a sad commentary on the governance within our state when it comes to wildlife. While they continue to infringe on the majority’s wishes in Maine, the land wars will continue, and those in the majority will end up suffering the most. I hope they will remember they brought it on themselves.

Daryl DeJoy of Penobscot has been a registered Maine Guide for 19 years and is executive director of the Wildlife Alliance of Maine.

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