As a lifelong Mainer, nature lover, and the mother of five sons who love the outdoors, I am as committed to preserving Maine’s environment and hunting traditions as it gets. We are so blessed to live in a state whose natural beauty and vast wilderness serve not only as a constant source of recreation and enjoyment for those of us lucky enough to call it home, but an economic magnet that draws people to “Vacationland” from all over the world.
That is why Maine needs a governor who protects and builds upon Maine’s traditions of hunting, fishing, and looking after our wildlife and environment. Serving on the Maine Legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, I had a front row seat to Gov. Paul LePage’s approach, and it was impressive.
Some of the most important work the LePage administration and the committee did related to the growth and preservation of Maine’s deer herd. I served on a subcommittee that, together with the LePage administration, produced a comprehensive overhaul of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s deer management program, something that environmental groups and sportsmen have been calling on for years. Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine executive director David Trahan has said that the 2011-12 legislative term was “the most effective two-year term in my lifetime for improving policy affecting Maine’s white tail deer herd.”
The administration supported and LePage signed into law changes to Land for Maine’s Future’s charter that required land purchases made by the fund to prioritize the acquisition of deer wintering habitats, helping to restore the deer herd in places where it has been diminished. One such example is the Cold Stream project, which includes 8,000 acres near Jackman with 2,000 acres of deer wintering land along with some of the best brook trout spawning areas in the state. This was one of the most significant habitat investment projects in state history, and it wouldn’t have happened without LePage, who worked with groups like SAM, the Nature Conservancy and my legislative committee to accomplish this change.
LePage continued his work to strengthen the deer population in Maine by establishing the Predator Control and Deer Habitat Fund to assist in controlling growing threats to the deer herd from coyotes and other predators.
In his first term, our governor has made great strides to improve Maine’s recreational fisheries as well, spearheading the repeal of the saltwater fishing license mandate — a measure that was jammed through the legislature by Democrats in 2009. Mainers no longer have to jump through an unnecessary bureaucratic loophole in order to catch fish like striped bass and bluefish. Also in regard to licenses, because of the governor, disabled veterans no longer have to pay a fee in order to obtain a hunting license and a misguided proposal to require titling of four-wheelers and snowmobiles never became law.
He supported the creation of a fisheries tax credit, which promotes private sector investment in hatcheries and any infrastructure or improvement that expands fishermen’s access, such as docks and other access points. In order to preserve our coastal environment and protect the working waterfront, LePage signed legislation to clean up contaminated shoreline and put it back into productive economic use. This kind of economic activity is crucial to the prosperity of northern and coastal Maine.
The upcoming bear management referendum provides an especially insightful look into LePage’s prioritization of Maine’s hunting tradition as compared to his predecessor. In 2004, when Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s bear management practices were threatened by a referendum to ban baiting, trapping, and hounding for bears, then-Gov. John Baldacci gave DIFW officials only limited authority to get involved and defend their practices.
LePage, on the other hand, has given DIFW biologists, game wardens and administrators as much authority as is allowed by law to defend their practices against the referendum being initiated by the out-of-state, anti-hunting extremists at the Humane Society of the United States.
Finally, LePage has proven time and time again to be a stalwart defender of our right to bear arms, sponsoring legislation to protect the private information of concealed handgun permit holders and pushing back against misinformed gun control legislation.
Anyone who values Maine’s environment, the recreation provided by its great outdoors, and the gun rights law-abiding Mainers have valued and protected for generations should consider Paul LePage as their best choice for governor in November. I have seen his dedication to these important priorities firsthand and I know that no other governor would care as deeply about Maine’s sportsmen and sportswomen.
State Rep. Stacey Guerin, R-Glenburn, served on the Maine Legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee and is an avid sportswoman.