Thanks to an intensive month-long lobbying effort by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine aided by a few key legislators, freshwater anglers will not have to purchase a new, separate saltwater fishing license.
The decisive vote came in the Maine Senate at 8:30 p.m. on March 25, after Democratic senators emerged from a caucus with an agreement to support a substantial amendment to the bill. The amendment also won the support of SAM.
The culvert bill is hung up at the legislature. Just as fish are blocked from moving upstream by tens of thousands of poorly installed culverts, the Department of Environmental Protection’s culvert rules appear unable to migrate through the legislative process.
Maine’s next governor will be challenged to wring more money out of our natural resources while protecting critical habitat and our traditional recreational opportunities. That’s one reason I was listening carefully when most of the major candidates showed up for a March 11 forum sponsored by the Natural Resources Network.
All of the critical issues of concern to outdoor recreationists remain unresolved at the legislature, although some will be debated this week in the House and Senate.
The list of unresolved issues includes: ATV stops by game wardens; installation of culverts to allow fish passage; a saltwater anglers’ license; invasive plants; guns in Acadia National Park; the merger of natural resource agencies and the budgets of those agencies.
Last year the legislature directed each of the state’s natural resource agencies to adopt a policy regarding entering private lands for nonemergency purposes.
You may not think this is important. But it is very important to private landowners and to state agency staff trying to collect data on everything from bird populations to vernal pools. And that makes it important to every one of us who recreates on private land and enjoys the resources we find there.
This is not about fishing. It’s about relationships.
For more than a decade, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine’s Fishing Initiative Committee (which I chair) and the Fisheries Division at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife have been at war over fishing issues.
We see the waters of Maine as half empty of fish, while DIF&W sees them as half full. That’s the simplest way to describe this disagreement.
Seventy five percent of Mainers are benefiting from the work of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife without paying a nickel for that work. And three major state organizations have launched a campaign to change that.
Two reports to the legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife last week brought clarity to the problem and hope for the future of this under-funded and over-tasked agency.
One of Maine’s largest and most significant conservation projects may be funded in the next month and most people have never heard of it. Even the name of the project has caused confusion.
Some are calling it the Great Maine Forest Initiative. A Maine Steering Committee now calls it the Keeping Maine’s Forest initiative. The federal government, which is expected to provide the funding, calls it their Treasured Landscapes project.
Gathered around the small conference table in Room 126 at the Cross Office Building were an interesting mix of interests including lake associations, bass clubs, state agencies, and legislators, all called to this noontime meeting on January 28 by Representative Jane Eberle, an environmental activist and member of the Natural Resources Committee and the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee.
Mainers are proud of their environment and we have some of the toughest environmental regulations in the nation. On some, we followed California, long a leader in environmental protection.
So when I heard a recent radio interview with a Californian gubernatorial candidate, suggesting that the state ought to suspend pending greenhouse gas rules due to the recession and jobless rate, my ears perked up.
I wondered: is there any move in Maine to suspend our environmental rules, to foster job growth and lower the cost of doing business here?