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.

Free Saltwater Angler Registry Coming Soon!

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A dramatic change in the position of the Department of Marine Resources will give all Maine saltwater anglers a free fishing registry, something many of us have worked to achieve for three years since Congress enacted a federal mandate to establish a registry of saltwater anglers in each state.

 Norm Olsen, DMR’s new commissioner, with the strong support of his boss, Governor Paul LePage, has endorsed Senator David Trahan’s bill to create a free registry for saltwater anglers. Before today, DMR had vigorously opposed the free registry.

Last year the Maine legislature authorized a Maine saltwater registry, free for inland anglers but not for those who only fish in the saltwater. This action allowed Maine saltwater anglers to avoid a new requirement that they register with the federal government and pay $15.

Felt-soled Waders May Be Banned

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The legislature’s Natural Resources Committee hosted a hearing yesterday on a bill that could lead to a ban on felt-soled waders in Maine.

 LD 252, An Act to Amend the Laws Governing Aquatic Nuisance Species, is sponsored by Representative Jane Eberle, an environmental leader who has focused a great deal of attention on the problem of invasive plants and fish during her tenure in the legislature.

During her presentation of the bill, Eberle focused on the potential harm if Didymo, commonly called “rock snot,” gets into Maine’s rivers and streams.

Representatives of Maine Audubon, The Nature Conservancy, Congress of Lakes Association, Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance, and the Departments of Environmental Protection and Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, all spoke in favor of the bill. There were no opponents.

Woodcock Wins Unanimous Committee Endorsement

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Room 206 at the Cross Office Building was crammed with Chandler Woodcock fans this morning. Chandler’s nomination for DIF&W Commissioner was a home run for Governor Paul LePage.

The popular Woodcock drew support from Maine’s sporting and environmental groups, including the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and Maine Audubon, as well as individual sportsmen.

Woodcock’s testimony, handwritten on several sheets of paper, was eloquent, a complete tour through his interests and intentions. He mentioned his past and current interests of bird and deer hunting, trapping, kayaking, canoeing the Allagash and St. John Rivers, participating in Audubon’s bird count, and teaching his grandchildren the fine outdoor arts including putting a worm on a hook. 

Deer Action Plan Created

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Senator David Trahan and I have decided to release to the public our new Deer Action Plan, created with the help of three dozen participants in a December 2010 workshop. We have been discussing the plan with the staff of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, have made changes throughout the process, and consider the plan to be a work in progress. We’re still gathering and welcoming ideas and suggestions, so please feel free to email those directly to me at georgesmithmaine@gmail.com.

Soon after the confirmation of DIF&W’s new Commissioner, Chandler Woodcock, we expect a very significant announcement from the department about the steps they will take to rebuild Maine’s deer herd. We will have more to say at that time about our plan and the department’s actions. For now, in the attachment to this news blog, you will find our report on the December workshop and our plan.

 

IFW Committee Supports Dam Blockage

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This afternoon the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee hosted public hearings on two new bills and a work session on bills heard last week. I wrote a news blog on February 9 about the hearing on LD 134 on dams and invasive fish species and attended the hearing today to provide a follow-up story.

 Before the afternoon committee meeting, I had lunch with a group of legislators and others concerning the saltwater fishing registry. Several bills have been introduced following enactment of the Maine registry law last session. Very soon I’ll be writing a comprehensive report on the status of the existing system and the proposals now before the legislature. First up this afternoon were the public hearings.

DIF&W Committee Debates Dams and Fish Passage

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The legislature’s Fish and Wildlife Committee jumped right into a controversial issue with its very first public hearings of this session, held this afternoon.

 LD 134, An Act to Provide Native Landlocked Salmon Fisheries from Invasive Fish Species, sponsored by Rep. Paul Davis, would prohibit the construction of a fishway or fish bypass structure that would allow invasive fish species to pass over the barrier dams on the Sebec River in Milo and at the outlet of Sebec Lake.

 “As a result of the Penobscot River Restoration a fish bypass will be build around the Howland Dam to allow native fish to return to the waters they originated from,” testified Davis. “This will include Atlantic salmon and several other species that have not been able to access the upper rivers for many years.”

Advice for Commissioner Woodcock

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I've offered advice for Chandler Woodcock in my newspaper column today.

Chandler will be announced today at a 10 am press conference in the Cabinet Room at the State Capitol as Governor LePage's choice to lead the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. 

My Down East blog yesterday reported on the savvy legislative strategy being followed by Maine's environmental groups.

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