Commissioner Camuso’s concerns

Maine’s new fish and wildlife boss, Judy Camuso, who has been at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIF&W) helm since January, shared her views recently as a guest on my Sunday night statewide radio program “Maine Outdoors” (103.9, 101.3 and 95.1 FM).

Throughout the interview her unbridled enthusiasm for her new job, as well as her resolve to be a leader who listens, came through loud and clear. “I love this job!” she exclaimed. The former wildlife director for MDIF&W, Camuso believes that she has “the best job in the world” and speaks with pride about the “professionals” who make up the department.

What are her priorities? Aware that hunting in Maine, and the decline of nonresident deer hunters, needs to be turned around, she hopes to address this through aggressive marketing and sound whitetail management.

“If the anti-bear hunting element from out of state makes another attempt to ban bear trapping and hunting with hounds,” I asked, “will you stand behind our trappers and houndsmen?”

Camuso was unequivocal in her answer. She said that managing growing bear populations makes it imperative to support any type of legal bear harvesting, including trapping and hunting with dogs.

She believes that the essence of her leadership role is putting the right people in the right jobs and standing behind them. Along with this, she emphasized that “good leaders listen” and she plans on making public contact as much as her job will allow.

From one listener who called in on the show, the commissioner did take some heat when it came to a longtime complaint: complicated fishing regulations. She indicated that there is more that can be done to simplify fishing regs, but that careful pond-by-pond management of Maine’s sport fishery has led to improved fishing in the past few years.

Anyone who has ever served as commissioner of the MDIF&W will most likely tell you that it’s anything but dull. As a matter of fact, just about anyone who has worked for MDIF&W in the same building within earshot of the commissioner’s top floor office, will attest that there is a burden to bear for those for whom the buck stops at the Augusta fish and wildlife department.

Sportsmen and women and the organizations that represent them, as a rule, tend to know best how to manage deer populations, regulate the state’s sport fishery, or control coyotes. And they are not timid about expressing their views to any sitting fish and wildlife commissioner.

Suffice to say that any commissioner worth his or her salt has to walk a tight rope trying to accommodate diverse constituencies while at the same time making hard choices, even when those choices aren’t always popular.

Historically, just about every Maine fish and wildlife commissioner has enjoyed the luxury of a so-called “honeymoon period” when new to the job. The duration of this varies but generally comes to a screeching halt when the first big hunting or fishing controversy rises to the fore.

It looks like Maine’s first female fish and wildlife leader is up to the challenge and formulating her own management style. As she well knows, Maine sportsmen are tuned in, and will be in the months and years ahead.

V. Paul Reynolds

Columnist at Ellsworth American
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. His email address is [email protected]

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