*Editor’s Note* This article first appeared in the Northwoods Sporting Journal in Maine.
Last February, Maine’s brand new IFW commissioner released “Maine’s Game Plan for Deer”. This article is not about the Plan but instead about the commitment or lack thereof, to implement the plan and resolve the problems of a depleted whitetail deer population.
During the gubernatorial campaign of 2010, then candidate Paul LePage convinced hunters that he was committed to rebuilding the herd. LePage’s selection of Chandler Woodcock as IFW commissioner brought with it the promise that Maine was committed to saving the deer and thus keeping the industry itself part of Maine’s heritage.
If the governor and the commissioner have made this commitment, and some would question even that, where is the engagement in the effort from others?
My work puts me in touch with fish and game issues nationwide. Of late, I have been a party to events taking place in the state of Utah where they are attempting to rebuild a depleting mule deer herd. I read with comparative amazement the vast differences in the devotion to the two causes.
A recent email tells of plans to double the herd from 200,000 to 400,000 in Utah and that effort is “strong” from government and non government agencies alike. I read about the devotion by several in the Utah Legislature to increase deer numbers. I’m told deer recovery in Utah “has a high priority from powerful and influential people in Utah”.
I observe the communication between the governor’s office and that of U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch in conjunction with all sportsman’s groups. In one email exchange, I learned how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, a neighboring state, assisted the contingencies in obtaining millions of dollars for habitat restoration along with predator control, etc.
Through the demands of Utah sportsmen, a study was finally done and paid for that determined the reason for a declining deer herd was a near non existent fawn recruitment. While the fish and game department, only one stakeholder in this statewide investment, dithers, all other efforts are directed at what can be done now, i.e. predator control and into the future habitat restoration and protection.
So, where is Maine’s commitment? What has IFW done? Are there studies that could be done with a commitment of money? Who is finding that money? What has the governor done? When was the last time that senators Snowe and Collins got involved in Maine’s commitment to restore the deer herd? If Sen. Reid can find millions of dollars, can we assume that Snowe and/or Collins could as well? Have all Maine’s hunters and trappers and outdoor sportsman’s groups anted up?
If the commitment is lacking, then perhaps there is also lacking a firm belief in the seriousness of the problem. Or, the belief exists but a poor job of selling and recruiting all influential people stands in the way. Perhaps consideration that inexperience and/or political savvy at many levels within the state presents a river with no means to cross.
Whatever it is, Maine’s effort to save a deer herd and a hunting industry, will fail miserably if there isn’t a stronger commitment at all levels.
It’s time for the Governor, the Commissioner, Sens. Snowe and Collins, Reps. Michaud and Pingree and all sportsmen and their organizations to get serious about the deer herd problem if they believe it is a problem.
Tom Remington is an independent, well-published writer, researcher, syndicated columnist and public speaker, focusing on hunting, outdoor issues, rights and the environment. Much of his work can be found at his website http://www.tomremington.com