Gov.-elect Janet Mills’ proposed appointment of Judy Camuso as the new commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is a huge mistake. This is evidenced by the Dec. 20 BDN OpEd by James Cote shortly after the appointment was announced. The column failed to note that Cote, in addition to being “an advocate for hunters, anglers and trappers” is also a paid lobbyist for the Maine Trappers Association and was the campaign manager for Save Maine’s Bear Hunt during the 2014 bear referendum.
The fact that Camuso’s appointment is strongly supported by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and the Maine Trappers Association is evidence of her past actions and her inability or unwillingness to bring about much needed reform to Maine’s broken and corrupt fish and wildlife management system.
IF&W is indeed a “captured” agency controlled by and for those who advocate killing Maine’s wildlife. The fact is that non-consumptive use, aka wildlife watching is far more important to Maine and Maine’s economy than hunting and fishing combined with far more participants and economic benefit.
Cote is an advocate for hunters, anglers and trappers. I am and advocate for the public’s wildlife and for non-consumptive users of our wildlife. Wildlife watching is hugely popular in Maine. In 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, wildlife watchers in Maine generated $1.3 billion in economic activity, supported nearly 18,000 jobs which paid nearly $500 million in wages, and paid nearly $200 million in taxes.
Maine’s system of fish and wildlife management is corrupt and broken. During the 2014 bear referendum, Camuso was a mouthpiece for those who advocate for bear baiting, hounding and trapping. She was among several MDIFW staff who spread false and misleading information and used scare tactics in order to save Maine’s bear hunting industry.
In fact, Maine’s politically and money driven unscientific bear feeding program which is supported by Camuso, is growing rather than controlling the bear population which has increased by some 60 percent since the 2004 bear referendum and is now approaching 40,000 animals.
Maine’s wildlife advocates have been trying for decades to get a seat at the table while the consumptive use extremists have been working to completely shut Maine people out of the wildlife management process.
The appointment of Camuso as IF&W commissioner is not a solution to the problem. It is the problem. When I asked then-candidate Mills how she planned to fix Maine’s government, her non-committal response was that she would rely on her commissioners. This appointment fixes nothing and at best maintains the status quo. That’s just what the consumptive use extremists are counting on.
John Glowa lives in South China. He is a life-long wildlife advocate and founder of The Maine Wolf Coalition. He is also author of John Glowa’s Maine Fish and Wildlife News on Facebook.