Gov.-elect Janet Mills announced Wednesday that she will nominate Judy Camuso as the next commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Camuso, who serves as the director of the department’s wildlife division, has worked for the DIF&W for more than a decade.
“Maine’s heritage, its culture, and its future are all inextricably linked to our outdoors — and no one better understands that or appreciates it more than Judy,” Mills said in a news release. “Her more than 10 years of experience at MDIFW, along with her deep understanding of its importance and the issues it confronts, position her well to lead it in the years to come. I look forward to working with Judy to continue to prioritize the protection, enhancement, and enjoyment of our outdoors.”
Camuso said she looks forward to the challenge.
“It is an honor to be selected to lead the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, an agency that I care deeply about,” Camuso said. “I have dedicated my career to the preservation and enhancement of our outdoors, the wildlife that inhabit it, and the people who enjoy it. I am excited by the opportunity to continue that work alongside MDIFW’s extraordinary employees and to ensuring that our outdoor resources and traditions can be enjoyed for generations to come.”
Camuso has served as wildlife division director since 2013. Before that, she was an assistant regional wildlife biologist from 2007 until 2012, and special projects coordinator in 2013. Before joining the department, she served as Gilsland Farm Center Director at Maine Audubon from 1996-2007.
Camuso is an avid birder and hunter who enjoys canoeing, hiking and biking. She graduated from the University of Vermont and lives in Freeport.
Camuso earned the respect of many in the hunting and trapping communities in 2014, when she vigorously defended the department’s wildlife biologists during a referendum effort that sought to end the trapping of bears, as well as the hunting of bears with bait or hounds.
Camuso focused on the research the department had done over more than 30 years studying black bears, and portrayed the biologists as experts who should be respected.
And while she came to the DIF&W from an organization — Maine Audubon — best known for a non-consumptive conservation message, she has gained the trust of more consumptive users during her time at the department.
In fact, within minutes of the announcement of her nomination, James Cote, the legislative liaison for the Maine Trappers Association, reached out to the BDN with a thorough endorsement of Camuso.
“I couldn’t be more thankful and supportive of Governor-Elect Mills’ appointment of Judy Camuso for Commissioner of MDIFW. From the 2014 referendum on bear hunting, to productive dialogues on trapping related issues to long-term plans that benefit our wildlife, Judy has long demonstrated an acute ability to orient her positions based on the sound science of department staff, to work with a wide range of stakeholders, and ultimately, to get things done,” Cote wrote in an email. “She is smart, capable, and supportive of both consumptive and non-consumptive fish and wildlife enthusiasts alike. She is extremely respected, and has the experience and vision necessary to lead the Department to great heights in coming years. We very much look forward to working with her. Governor-Elect Mills could not have made a stronger choice, and for that, I thank her.”
As the director of the wildlife division, Camuso oversees all wildlife program activities, including all research and monitoring programs, hunting and trapping seasons, endangered species management, and all habitat management activities, according to the press release.
In all, she manages a staff of 45 wildlife professionals, and the wildlife division oversees more than 60 wildlife management areas covering more than 106,000 acres.
If confirmed Camuso, 48, would be the first woman ever to lead the DIF&W, which is charged with preserving, protecting and enhancing the inland fisheries and wildlife resources of the state.