George's Outdoor News

George’s new outdoor issues blog. He goes all over the state. He listens. And he reports on issues of concern to sportsmen, conservationists, and environmentalists.

Of Cottontails and Ducks

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Beth Quimby's story in today's Maine Sunday Telegram about the money being spent in Maine on cottontail rabbits is astonishing.

And Bob Humprhey's account of the difficulties of duck hunting, titled "When duck hunting, you might need an attorney," also in today's Sunday Telegram, is priceless.

Fishing a Hot Topic This Fall

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Although we're angling into fall hunting seasons, you need to pay attention to fishing issues now.

Many proposed changes in fishing rules are working their way through the process, and it's time to put in your two cents worth.

Department staff – particularly Commissioner Woodcock and Fisheries and Wildlife Director John Boland – have proposed many of the changes in fishing rules. The initial rule changes went to the Fish and Wildlife Advisory Council in September. They will also be on the Council’s agenda for October before being finally enacted – with the approval of the Council and the Commissioner – in November.

Proposed rule changes will be available soon on the department’s website.  Your comments and suggestions need to be submitted now  and can be directed to john.boland@maine.gov or andrea.erskine@maine.gov.

Top DIF&W Staff Retiring – Erskine May Be Next

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Changes to the state retirement system, along with $5000 incentive payments, have caused a significant exodus of key staff members at Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

 The legislature offered $5,000 incentives to state employees who are eligible to retire but have not yet done so. Legislators also changed the state retirement system, requiring those who retire before age 60 (beginning on January 1, 2012), to pay for their health insurance until they reach the age of 60.

 I’ve already reported on Sandy Ritchie’s retirement. But her exit is just the start of key staffers who will retire in the next few months.

 Here is a list of those I know for sure are retiring.

 Mark Stadler, Director of the Wildlife Division

George Matula, Supervisor of the Wildlife Resource Assessment Section in Bangor

DIF&W Reorganization Plan Delayed

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A reorganization plan for Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has been delayed until at least November.

Commissioner Chandler Woodcock had hoped to submit his plan to Governor Paul LePage by early September, but two pending issues caused the delay.

The first issue is the legislature’s effort to cut $25 million from the next biennial budget. An ad-hoc group organized by legislative leaders and Governor LePage is working on a plan that would reduce the budget by $25 million, although the Governor has challenged the group to cut $100 million.

Landowner Relations Getting More Attention

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 The relationship between landowners and land users – what we call landowner relations - has received a lot of attention over the last 20 years, with little to show for it. By my estimate, more than one million acres has been posted “No Trespassing” in the last two decades. Bitter fights have broken out at the legislature over contentious issues like Sunday hunting and ATV riding.

So I traveled today to Bangor to find out what the state’s Landowners and Sportsmen Relations Advisory Board is up to. Before we get to that, a bit of history.

Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife established a Governor’s Council on Landowner/Sportsmen Relations in 1992 “to foster public use of private land for recreational activities.” The council had twelve members, six representing landowners and six representing land users. For a period of time I served on the council representing sportsmen.

Ritchie Retirement A Serious Setback for Maine's DIF&W

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Changes to the retirement system for state employees are emptying Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife of key leaders and some of the most experienced and capable people in the agency. None will be missed as much as Sandy Ritchie.

Sandy announced her retirement in an emailed message to friends and colleagues this afternoon. Here’s what she said.

“After much thought and personal reflection I have decided to retire from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife after 31 years of service; my last day of work will be September 16, 2011.

“This is a bittersweet decision for me as I have wanted to be a wildlife biologist since I was 10 years old, and working for MDIFW has been a dream come true for me. Still, I am looking forward to new challenges and opportunities that await me.

New Maine Hunting Law Book Coming Soon

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A new book of Maine hunting laws and rules should be available before most of the fall hunting seasons kick off on October 1. That will be particularly timely because the new laws enacted in this year’s legislative session take effect on September 28.

Andrea Erskine, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, has completed her work in pulling the book together. This is one of her former duties that followed her into her new position at the department.

DIF&W’s Director of Information and Education Edie Smith is now proof reading the entire book. You should look for it sometime in September at town offices and anywhere hunting licenses are sold

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