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.

Twin Pine Camps Tops in Maine's North Woods

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Snow-covered Mount Katahdin is hard to ignore, right there across Millinocket Lake from our perch in the River Driver’s Restaurant. There’s no prettier dining spot in Maine.

The restaurant is at Twin Pine Camps, part of Matt and Wendy Polstein’s New England Outdoor Center, a North Woods destination offering a range of accommodations and great food. Combining amazing outdoor adventures in all seasons with fine dining and luxurious accommodations, Matt and Wendy have created the type of facility you would more commonly associate with Maine’s thriving coastal tourism industry.

The only difference is that they have created their dream destination ten miles west of Millinocket – the perfect location if you enjoy the outdoors as much as we do.

Read more.

Legislator Muzzled on LURC Bill

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Rep. Russell Black, a key member of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee, was ordered by committee leaders to stop talking to people about the bill to reform Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission.

Black’s bill to aid the maple syrup industry has also been held up in the Senate, to add to the pressure on the only Republican member of the ACF Committee to oppose a provision in the bill that would allow counties to opt out of LURC by taking on its duties at the county level.

So far, Black is holding tough in a very impressive performance of integrity and strength.

The committee is headed to a showdown on the LURC bill on Thursday afternoon. Last week the committee found some areas of agreement, then broke down after committee member Rep. Karen Foster offered an amendment that addressed two contentious issues including the opt out provision.

Governor Stifles Legislative Inquiries to Agencies

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There was a time when a request from a legislator was a top priority for response from any state agency. If a member of the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, for example, had a question about anything – from a legislative bill to a pending fishing rule change – he or she could wander into the DIF&W Commissioner’s office and get an answer. A written request from a legislator went right to the top of the Commissioner’s to-do pile for a fast response. Top staff at the department treated legislative requests in the same manner, making responses their highest priority.

Those days are apparently over. I recently obtained a February 22, 2012 memo from Carlie McLean to the Commissioners of the state’s natural resources agencies. Carlie is Governor LePage’s Senior Natural Resources Advisor. It’s important to state that I did not obtain this memo from anyone in any state agency.

Busy Week Ahead at Legislature and Elsewhere

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I’m approaching the busiest week I’ve had in a long time, starting with meetings at Maine Audubon on Monday, followed by three days at the legislature, and ending on Friday with the annual Milfoil Summit in Auburn.

It’s exciting to be collaborating with my friend Ted Koffman, the executive director of Maine Audubon. When he was in the legislature, Ted sponsored a very important bill to protect and enhance our native brook trout, on behalf of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, for which I worked at the time. Since he took the top job at Audubon, that organization has added brook trout to its extensive agenda of issues and projects, and its good to have their interest in a key fisheries issue.

LURC Hearing Draws Big Crowd

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Thursday, February 16. 12:30 pm, Room 437 at the State Capitol, 30 minutes before the hearing on a bill to reform the Land Use Regulation Commission. Chaos.

People began arriving at 10 am this morning for the 1 pm hearing. Committee clerk Megan Ricker put out sign-up sheets for speakers  at 11:30 am. This not being my first rodeo, I signed up to speak first, as a proponent of LD 1798, even though I strongly oppose two of its sections. The opponents list was much longer than the proponents list, and proponents always get to speak first. I also placed my coat and briefcase on a seat by the window in the hearing room, to reserve a spot there.

Returning to the room at 12:20 pm, I found the room jammed, every seat taken, lots of people standing. But miracle of miracles, my jacket and briefcase kept my seat open!

DIF&W Revenue Short $900,000

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Seven months into this fiscal year, Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s revenue is $900,000 less than expected, and $825,000 less than the agency raised in the same period last year. The state’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

The department also spent $850,000 more in January of 2012 than it did in January of 2011, although you can’t draw any conclusions from that, because the agency’s monthly spending pattern is erratic from year to year.

We do know for certain that the department has $1.2 million of surplus funds in its carrying account, mostly because dozens of staff positions remain vacant. Some have been vacant for years and will never be filled. They’re maintained on the books to help the agency meet state requirements for savings through attrition.

New Landowner Relations Program On Its Way

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Special thanks today to Chilton Paint Company (and Furniture), a new sponsor of this outdoor news blog.

An exciting new landowner relations program is well on its way, with the endorsement today by the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee of an amended version of LD 1613 submitted by the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and SWOAM’s Tom Doak and DIF&W’s Mark Latti were here to support their amendment.

This bill was originally proposed by SWOAM and represents a significant achievement for that organization in this legislative session.

SWOAM launched a project in 2010 create a strong partnership between Maine’s private landowners and those who use their land for recreation.

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