For years now, from elected Augusta officials of either party, we have heard this song before: “We need to be more aggressive and creative in marketing Maine as a hunting and fishing destination.” Yes, it’s an old, familiar score.
But somehow reality always seems to fall short of promises and expectations. Traditionally, the promote Maine folks have focused on lobster and our scenic coast at the expense of touting other traditional inland recreational opportunities.
This was the case 25 years ago when I worked as information officer for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The funds available for marketing Maine hunting and fishing were a pittance in context of what hunting and fishing income represented to the state.
Recently in a column in the SAM News, Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Judy Camuso outlined what hunting and fishing mean to Maine’s present economy. For example, hunting annually brings in $339 million while fishing brings in $208 million to the state. This economic impact also produces thousands of full-time and part-time jobs to the state’s rural areas, which have been hard-pressed for employment opportunities.
According to Camuso, Governor Janet Mills is keenly aware of all of this and, to her credit, has budgeted some significant funds that IF&W can use to better market Maine’s rich hunting and fishing resources to potential users from Maine and beyond.
IF&W’s marketing and communication program will get $250,000 from the Governor’s budget and $150,000 for IF&W’s landowner relations program. Boiled down, this means that the Governor, or somebody within her staff, has seen the light: Maine can do a lot better competing on the national stage to attract hunting and fishing dollars to the state.
Maine’s sport fishery alone, especially its wild trout and bass fishery, has enormous potential to attract new recreational anglers, not just from New England but worldwide! And when you consider hunting opportunities from Big Woods trophy bucks to black bears, moose and grouse, the sky is the limit if properly marketed.
Writes Camuso, “… the Department has embarked on an aggressive campaign to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters and anglers. This R3 program is designed to attract new hunters and anglers, retain those who currently hold licenses and engage those who have dropped out.”
This is very good news. All of Maine stands to benefit economically if the Mills appropriation is managed well and designed to reach those who are always looking for places to hunt and fish and enjoy the great outdoors, which Maine has in spades.