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.

Ritchie Briefs IFW Committee on Deer Action Plan

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DIF&W’s Sandy Ritchie, who has been selected to lead the department’s effort to rebuild the state’s deer herd, presented the legislature’s Fish and Wildlife Committee with a new 40-page Deer Action Plan this afternoon along with a briefing on the plan.

“There’s no question deer populations in central and northern Maine are very low,” Ritchie reported, noting that deer populations have been going down since the 1960s. She cited severe winters, predation by bears and coyotes, illegal hunting, and improper deer feeding as the reasons.

Ritchie said the new plan builds on the department’s existing deer management plan, the recommendations of their Deer Working and Deer Predation Working Group, and Senator David  Trahan’s December workshop and subsequent Deer Action Plan.

Tax Credit for Fisheries Investment

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For the third session in a row, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine proposed the creation of a tax credit for those who invest private dollars to improve Maine’s fisheries and water access. Senator David Trahan sponsored the bill on SAM’s behalf and presented it to the legislature’s Taxation Committee, which he serves as Senate Chair, on March 3.

 Matt Dunlap, SAM’s executive director, and I both testified in favor of the bill. Committee members asked many good questions and expressed a lot of interest in the bill.

SAM Pulls Back From ATV Bill

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 The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine has abandoned its support for legislation that would allow game wardens to stop ATV riders on private land without “reasonable and articulable suspicion” that a violation of law has occurred.

As a member of the Natural Resources Network, SAM supported similar legislation in 2010.

“Board members were divided on the two bills (submitted this session) and on the issue of warden stops, so they decided to stay out of it,” reported SAM’s new executive director Matt Dunlap.

“I hope this is not an indication that SAM is pulling away from its alliances with landowners,” responded Tom Doak, executive director of the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine, the group leading the charge for the ATV bill.

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.

 

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