George Smith's blog

Stetson Stories

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Most Mainers support green energy wind projects, properly sited. But this column is not about wind power. I wanted to find out if wind projects benefited local people, programs, and economies. So I headed north to Danforth, next door to First Wind’s Stetson Mountain wind towers. Here’s what I discovered.

Outdoor Kids

Imagine a bunch of teenagers up before dawn to paddle canoes around a lake before school. Fourteen years ago when David Conley started his outdoor program for the East Grand School system, he probably could not have imagined it. Now he lives it. Connelly offers what may be the most successful outdoor program for kids from 5th to 12th grades in the state. And he’s tucked into one of Maine’s most remote off-the-beaten-path places. “We’re using recreation as a tool for building confidence, team work, outdoor appreciation, and environmental awareness,” said Connelly, an avid sportsmen who takes kids into the wilderness setting of the Baskahegan year round, with winter camping one of his most popular activities.

Speaking of Deer

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Sitting in my deer stand last Saturday afternoon as the sun sank below the horizon, I knew that sun would come back up on Sunday morning. I’m not so sure about Maine’s deer herd.

Deer have disappeared from the North Woods and their numbers in central Maine are greatly diminished. The outdoor industry that depends on nonresident deer hunters has taken a terrible hit and may not recover.

In a recent WCSH TV 207 interview, I lamented Maine’s two major hunting problems: diminished deer in the northern half of the state, and diminished numbers of hunters statewide.

Where the woods were once full of 250,000 deer hunters, we’ll be lucky to see 150,000 this season.

We’ve also suffered an epidemic of posted land in southern Maine.

And Bucky Owen, the popular former Commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, told me not long ago that he thinks, “deer hunting in the north woods is all over.”

When I saw Bucky last week, he was going to his Sourdahunk Lake camp – to hunt birds, not deer.

The deer harvest has plunged from 38,153 in 2002 to 28,884 in 2007 to 18,045 in 2009, a 53 percent decline in just seven years.

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