We've put out the Wildfire

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 Our TV show Wildfire has been dashed. Simply put, it was fun but too much work for my cohost James Cote and me. Our last show aired in mid-December and featured Tom Brennan of Poland Spring Bottling Company.

For 13 years I cohosted Wildfire with my friend Harry Vanderweide, and it was a great experience, with a large audience. The show gave us an opportunity to explore key outdoor issues and present lots of people doing great things for our state.

But when Harry came down with Lyme disease, Wildfire left the air. Three years later, with Harry’s blessing, I invited James Cote to join me as cohost and bring Wildlife back to the air.

The show aired on Time Warner channel 9 and was also available online at www.vstv.me. We had some great guests, including Kate Krukowski Gooding who cooked up a special Black Fly Stew featuring bear, moose, and beaver meat during the show. Delicious!

They’ll be hunting deer on March 2 at the legislature

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 Let’s call this Deer Day. The legislature’s IFW Committee has scheduled hearings on 8 deer bills for 1 pm, March 2, in Room 206 in the Cross Building next to the Capitol.

The Committee has already killed one deer bill which would have allowed senior hunters to shoot does anytime during the hunting season without an any-deer permit. Judy Camuso, IFW’s Wildlife Division Director, told the committee that the bill “will significantly reduce opportunity for others.”

That was an understatement. In 2016 there were 36,000 senior hunters. Only 8,059 applied for an any-deer permit and 3,927 got one. 67.5 percent of the any-deer permits already go to specific groups including landowners and youths, leaving less than 1/3 for all other deer hunters.

March 2 Lineup

Here are the bills scheduled for hearings on March 2.

One of Maine's best restaurants is in Norway.

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            We are very lucky that Amy and Bret Baker chose Maine as the place to open their own restaurant, after an impressive career managing and cooking in restaurants in other states. They were flying to Vermont when a nearby passenger heard of their plans and urged them to visit Maine.

            They did, and ended up purchasing an historic home built in 1896 in Norway, a vibrant Maine community, creating one of our state’s best restaurants. And that is no exaggeration. Since opening six years ago, their business has grown every year.

IFW Committee kills bill to simplify fishing rules

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 The bill to create a commission to simplify Maine’s complicated fishing rules got a unanimous ought-not-to-pass recommendation from the legislature’s IFW Committee yesterday, even though five members of the committee had cosponsored the bill.

That was a big disappointment for me, as I had proposed the bill and asked Representative Michelle Dunphy to sponsor it.

Committee members, and representatives of SAM, the Maine Professional Guides Association, and Trout Unlimited, seem to have a lot of confidence that DIF&W can accomplish this task itself. But Representative Bob Duchesne, the House chair of the IFW Committee, asked the best question, “How can a department fix a problem they created?”

There was a bit of encouragement in the public hearing testimony and the work session discussion. A lot of suggestions were offered that would simplify the rules, and Francis Brautigam, Fisheries Division Director, said that his staff would be working this year to simplify the fishing rules.

Anti-trapping and anti-hunting groups lose Lynx lawsuit

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 U.S. District Court Judge Jon Levy has ruled against a lawsuit that sought to revoke the incidental take permits that protect trappers from prosecution under the Endangered Species Act if they accidentally capture a Canadian lynx, now on the ESA protected list.

Judge Levy granted a motion by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for summary judgment and denied the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment. The Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation, Maine Trappers Association, and the National Trappers Association all participated in defending the USF&W in this case.

Lots of opposition to simplifying Maine’s fishing rules

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 The legislative hearing on my proposal to organize a Commission to simplify Maine’s complicated fishing rules drew very little support, although five members of the IFW legislative committee cosponsored the bill.

Most disappointing was the opposition of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and the “neither for nor against” testimony of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, the Maine Professional Guides Association, and the Maine Council of Trout Unlimited.

At one time SAM led the way on initiatives to clarify and simplify Maine’s laws and rules governing hunting, trapping, and fishing. But not any longer.

I’m giving you a chance to express your opinion on this issue. After you’ve read this report, go to my website, www.georgesmithmaine.com, click on Sportsmen Say Survey, and answer the first question about simplification of the fishing rules.

Rep. Dunphy

You must go north to find excellent brook trout fishing

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 “Brook Trout,” an amazing book written by Nick Karas and published in 1997, is an entertaining, informative, and at times discouraging book about North America’s brook trout. I recently re-read Nick’s book, to prepare for public hearings on a couple of important brook trout bills at the legislature.

There’s a lot of truth in the book. Consider this:

“Despite the general deterioration of today’s environment over a great part of the brook trout’s original range, there’s still excellent fishing, some of it on par with that once possible in Maine, Nipogen, or the Laurentides. However, one has to travel north of the 49th parallel to find it. Several ecological niches in Canada allow brook trout populations within them to exhibit all of the potential characteristics of the species, those that few anglers in the United States ever see unless they leave their home waters.”

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