May 26, 2017

Maine DIF&W Lacks Mission Statement and Commitment For Harvest Opportunities

It’s nearly impossible for any establishment to achieve success without a distinct and clear vision of what their mission is. On the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife(MDIFW) website, there is no “mission statement”. If one gleans through the many pages, they might be able to pick up certain statements that would tend to make them think certain things about what it is that MDIFW is aiming to do. However, is that clear and concise planning that guarantees success?

An example of what I mean can be found on the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources web pages. While it matters not to me or perhaps to you whether we agree with the information contained on those pages, at least there is a brief mission statement and stated goals and objectives. This gives the department written goals and objectives to strive for, provides that same information to the citizens of Utah and creates a written benchmark in which citizens can keep the department on task by a continual reference to those goals and objectives. This is basic.

Some states, like Montana, and approximately 12 other states, have gone so far as to amend their constitutions in order to protect the right to hunt and fish. Montana’s amendment reads: Section 7. Preservation of harvest heritage. The opportunity to harvest wild fish and wild game animals is a heritage that shall forever be preserved to the individual citizens of the state and does not create a right to trespass on private property or diminution of other private rights.”

While it’s impressive that Montana has such an amendment, read carefully exactly what it protects concerning hunting. It protects “opportunity to harvest wild fish and wild game animals”, nothing more and nothing less. As citizens wishing to fully protect that heritage, wouldn’t it make sense to mandate fish and game departments to manage wild fish and wild game animals for surplus harvest for all citizens, along with protecting the opportunity?

This is the transformation that has taken place over the years by fish and game departments, hijacked by state governments, along with non governmental, environmental, and animal rights groups, to turn these departments into wildlife protection agencies. While most states’ fish and wildlife departments toss about the use of “opportunities” to hunt and fish, no longer do we find departments willing to state that their goals are to manage game animals for surplus harvest.

Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife(MDIFW) lacks a clearly written, well defined and accessible mission statement, complete with goals and objects. It also has no constitutional guarantee to provide surplus game or protection of “opportunities” and spends much of its time not only being manipulated by social pressures rather than using science, it goes out of its way to seek out and involve the public in setting management and population goals based on what the public will tolerate.

Evidently fed up with the bitching and complaining from hunters and associated industries, Maine crafted its “Maine’s Game Plan for Deer“. Prompted by a dying population of whitetail deer in Northern, Western and Eastern Maine, this plan was devised believing it would be the road map to recovery. What the plan lacks, once again is what I, personally, would consider clear goals and because of this, leaves sportsmen unsure of what exactly is going to take place, what the specific plan and achieved goals will be, specifically population objectives, and exactly who the Maine’s Game Plan for Deer was written for.

As a hunter, one would wish to see a statement from the Governor or at least the MDIFW Commissioner, stating that the objective of Maine’s Game Plan for Deer is to restore surplus populations of deer in all Wildlife Management Districts(WMD) for harvest opportunities. This would tell the sportsmen, who by the way are paying the bills at MDIFW, that the department intends to grow deer to levels that will give them surplus deer to harvest. Such a statement does no exist in Maine’s Game Plan for Deer.

As second choice, hunters might be satisfied for now if they could read or hear from the same sources that Maine’s Game Plan for Deer sets goals to rebuild deer populations that would increase hunting opportunities. That didn’t happen either.

As a matter of fact any wording or written statements that provide hunters any kind of reasonable assurances are quite lacking. The best I could come up with I’ll share below.

The MDIFW, after releasing Maine’s Game Plan for Deer, dedicated an entire newsletter to publish its new plan and discuss the whys and wherefores. Surely here hunters would find assurances.

In the newsletter, the following statement can be found:

While we’ve all been impressed by healthy deer populations, including trophy bucks, in parts of Maine, we’ve been concerned about low deer numbers in northern, eastern and western Maine. The population is below our publicly derived goals, and below the desires and expectations of hunters, guides and outfitters, rural Maine business owners, and those who enjoy watching deer.(emboldening added)

What does “publicly derived goals” mean? I can guarantee you it doesn’t mean more, better and guaranteed opportunities to harvest your deer to feed you family next fall. Further research shows us that Maine’s Game Plan for Deer is broken down into five elements.

One might also think that while publishing Maine’s Game Plan for Deer, an opportunity would be seized upon by MDIFW to assure the hunters, again those paying the bills, that this plan is for them (we are the ones who bitched and complained) and the purpose is specifically to grow deer to hunt. Instead, the preamble is about deflecting any notion of placing any blame for an abysmal deer herd away from MDIFW by stating: “there are several inter-related factors that are suppressing deer numbers” and the list does not include any slight hint of poor management. As a matter of fact, Commissioner Woodcock tells readers, “I’ve heard hunters claim that mismanagement on the part of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife caused the numbers to go down. That’s not true.” The dog ate my homework? Why does MDIFW exempt itself from blame?

So, if Maine drafts a Maine’s Game Plan for Deer, and in it there is nowhere that it even assures hunters that the plan is to grow surplus deer for harvest, then why are we paying for this and supporting it?

Element Two of Maine’s Game Plan for Deer is titled: Deer Population Management. Here’s what’s listed:
Strategies:
• conduct research to
refine our current deer population model
• better understand interactions between deer,
habitat, and predation
• understand how moose management may affect
our ability to increase the deer population
• work with landowners to eliminate deer mortality
where winter feeding makes deer susceptible to
vehicle collisions
• increase law enforcement efforts to target illegal killing
of deer
• work with the legislature to increase penalties for
illegal killing of deer
(emboldening added)

If I wanted to write a book, I would address all of these issues. However, a strategy to “refine our current deer population model” needs attention because, after all, isn’t this what Maine’s Game Plan for Deer is about? How does MDIFW plan to “refine” this and what’s more, what IS the current deer population model? Oh, yeah! I recall. Maybe the statement made the other day that was published in the Bangor Daily News from Maine’s head deer biologist tells us what Maine’s “current deer population model” is.

We realize, more than anything, that moose are valued economically for viewing as well as hunting opportunity as well as being on the landscape and just the aesthetic of moose,” Kantar said. “We balance all those things. That’s our job.”

Just replace the word “moose” with “deer” and that probably fits aptly.

But I think Element Four should give us a better indication why Maine’s Game Plan for Deer is not a plan to increase your odds of bagging a deer next year or any year into the foreseeable future. It’s a plan to appease the public and in particular environmental and animal rights groups. Element Four is: “Deer Planning and Public Involvement”.

MDIF&W has employed public participation to develop management goals and objectives for many species of Maine’s wildlife, including deer. The Department has conducted species planning since the early 1970s and has refined and expanded the process with each planning update. Most recently, the 1999 Big Game Working Group set the Department’s deer population management objectives for 2000-2015.

Deer are a public resource, but live on private lands. For any wildlife management effort to be successful, especially those occurring on private property [including deer wintering area management] society must determine: 1] the wildlife management result it desires, 2] the effort that it will undertake or require to achieve the result, and 3] to achieve the result, how much of the effort / cost will be borne by the private landowner and what, if any, society will bear.

You may view this statement in much the same way as does MDIFW, the governor’s office, the Maine Legislature and probably the majority of the Maine population. You agree with it and/or find no fault with it. However, it’s this mind set of “we’ve been doing this “since the early 1970s” that people think because they have it must be right. It’s not! It’s wrong on every count. It’s why there are no more deer! Why is this difficult to comprehend?

Deer is a resource that must be managed scientifically. We are now at a point where our fish and game departments allow the dictates of social pressures, and yes, even the social perversions of extremism, to directly influence how it manages wildlife. We, as yet anyway, don’t directly control our human populations based on what society dictates, do we? Please say no.

As a hunter, here I sit trying to figure out how we have gotten to this point. Since I was ten years old, I have invested in the Maine fish and game department. I didn’t do it because I had nothing better to do with my money. I did it because I like to hunt and fish. I did it because I was told that coughing up money each year for a license was a good thing and that money would be used to make sure that I had fish and game to harvest when I was hungry. This is my investment and your investment. We are still paying for it and we have nothing to say about it while the environmentalists and animal rights advocates have infiltrated our fish and game departments and all through state governments. And they pay nothing for the privilege of telling MDIFW what it will and will not do. There once was a time when sportsmen had ownership and the influence. No more, and that’s very sad as well as a troubling commentary for our future.

Maine’s Game Plan for Deer, like the hapless MDIFW without goals, without strategies, without a mission, is not a plan that will promise to increase your hunting and harvest opportunities. The Plan makes no such promise, while only stating it will work to increase deer populations that fit social demands only. With a department that protects the predators that destroy the deer, you might get some limited opportunities to hunt deer but it certainly is not what most hunters have in mind…..or at least used to.

Tom Remington

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  • Mainiac710

    If ever there was a government department or function that could be improved through privatization, THIS IS IT! Replace all of them with independent contractors who would be compensated through performance based contracts. No performance, no pay!

    And while we are making changes at the IF&W, let’s have the Governor merge the entire Warden Service with the State Police. That would free up a lot of Pittman-Robertson funds and force the legislature to fund the Warden Service as part of the State Police.

    I know……I’m dreaming. If it is logical and makes perfect sense, it will never happen in Maine!