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

Cohill's Inn and Pub brings Ireland to Lubec Maine

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We’ve always wanted to visit Ireland. We didn’t realize it was in Lubec, Maine.

Jack and Ellen Gearren, Irish to the core, left their law enforcement jobs in New Jersey to settle into the one place in the states that reminded them of Ireland.

 “It’s the fog, the environment, the houses, the people,” that convinced them they need not migrate all the way to Ireland to live, Ellen told us.

At the end of Lubec’s Main Street, the Gearren’s opened their inn five years ago, providing nine small rooms with big views of Quoddy Bay.

 Downstairs they created an Irish Pub, authentic from the Smithwick and Guiness draft beers to the Shepards Pie.

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.

Folk Festival Puts Exclamation Mark on End of Summer

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The American Folk Festival on Bangor’s beautiful waterfront always puts an exclamation point at the end of our summer.

Friends Gary and Deb Dubord of Fayette introduced us to the folk festival four years ago. After that event, we were disappointed that we missed the first five festivals. This is a fantastic 3-day celebration full of music, dancing, arts and crafts, storytelling, and food.

We attended our first three festivals for a single day, then advanced last year to two days, traveling back and forth on Saturday and Sunday. This year we’ll be there for all three days, beginning Friday night, August 26 through Sunday August 28.

The Great Train Adventure - Brunswick to Rockland

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With a sense of adventure and romance, we signed up for the train trip from Brunswick to Rockland. While the train moved forward at about 45 miles per hour, we felt like we were moving back in time, combining nostalgia with stunning coastal views as we rode comfortably through backyards and over rivers.

And we discovered the elusive Wiscasset Route One by-pass. It’s the railroad!

The night before our round trip to Rockland, we stayed at the brand spanking new Inn at Brunswick Station and enjoyed dinner at the Inn’s tavern. During a splendid sunny afternoon in Rockland, we breezed through the Lobster Festival and feasted at Rustica restaurant on Main Street.

 Arriving back in Brunswick at 8 pm, we hit the Sea Dog in Topsham on the way home for burgers and beer.

 It was 31 hours of fun.

Take a Hike on the Maine Beer Trail

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The best hikes in Maine are on the Maine Beer Trail. And you don’t need hiking boots!

Our state has gone from a wasteland to a wonderland of beer brewing. We’ve established an international reputation for finely crafted beers and many brew masters welcome you into their facilities for tours and tastings.

The Maine Brewers Guild provides maps and a list of brewery tours including days and hours. Some of the breweries include restaurants. Prizes are awarded if you visit 5, 10 or all 25 breweries on the trail. As if you needed any incentive.

Today’s column includes a piece by our son Joshua Smith, who works for My Brothers Keeper, serving the poor in Brockton Massachusetts. We’re very proud of Josh, especially for his commitment to public service.

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.

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