As the saying goes, change is the only constant, and 2019 was no exception. For the outdoor community in Maine, some of the change was good, some not so good.
Let’s check out our backtrack.
When it comes to state policymakers in Augusta, they do have the power to oversee changes that leave a mark. Governor Mills created an ATV task force, long overdue. This group’s assignment is to recommend policy changes that will protect private land and preserve recreational opportunity. This is a tall order, but given the skyrocketing increase in ATV use and vastly improved trail systems in our state, we need to be proactive.
Recreational access, particularly for hunters, is still on the downswing. It is a nagging albatross for the Augusta policymakers who deal with this issue. More and more land continues to be posted against hunting, in spite of efforts by IF&W to stem the tide. This is no doubt a big factor in the decline of licensed hunters. Dealing with this access issue, IF&W Commissioner Camuso has pledged that it will be on her front burner.
A special appropriation of $150,000 has been earmarked for landowner relations efforts. Cross your fingers.
This winter’s legislative agenda is loaded with proposed laws related to the outdoors. One bill would give retired game wardens a free hunting/fishing license; a couple of others would expand the 2020 November deer and muzzle loader seasons. One would guarantee a doe permit to anyone holding a lifetime license! And you will be able to hunt turkeys with a crossbow this fall. That law passed last spring.
Thanks to IF&W’s new, sophisticated game-harvest data system, we know already that this fall’s deer harvest was 28,317. This is 4,000 below the 2018 harvest.
Keep an eye on another issue that is significant to sportsmen: coyote population management. Although Commissioner Camuso pledged early in her appointment to maintain state-sanctioned coyote population reduction in the North Woods, she will be getting heavy political pressure from the animal rights groups to suspend state-run coyote management. Public hearings are being conducted in various parts of the state.
Finally, backtracking kudos to the University of Maine extension service for opening its new tick-testing lab, and to the Veazie Salmon Club, not only from bringing itself back from the ashes, but for an amazing robust recovery to boot.
As we look to 2020, and all of the outdoor opportunities that are Maine’s good fortune, we take a moment to reflect on those outdoor friends who we lost in 2019.