September 16, 2019

The Dust Settles Over Maine’s Bear Hunting Referendum

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Three strikes and you’re out! Maine has now endured two onslaughts by radical animal rights groups and I don’t need a crystal ball to predict for me that “it ain’t over ’til it’s over.” There will be a third….at least of some sort.

Already we are beginning to hear the threats and promises of making another stab at ending the so-called “cruelty” to bears. Was the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) too greedy in going after a virtual end to bear hunting? Will they return, only this time attacking trapping and hounding? Incrementally destroying American Heritage is a popular thing. For whatever the reasons, HSUS thought they could win this time. They were wrong…..this time.

It will not end here. No more than it did the last time, 10 years ago. Outdoor sportsmen, writers, wildlife managers and politicians ran scared AND sat on their hands. This cannot happen again. We must show the radicals that we mean business and that referendums aimed at destroying normal and real scientific game management is a waste of time in Maine. How can we do this?

Let’s first look at what we did or didn’t do after the first round of radical, anti-hunting citizen’s initiative. We did nothing to discourage another referendum. We did everything we could to look scared of them. Those are the two biggest issues, and there are more.

When I say we did nothing, I mean there was no real attempts to write or rewrite laws to better protect the ability of the state to manage wildlife for the good of all and not the whims of radical minorities. I’m again suggesting a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to hunt, trap and fish.

Many of you might recall that just over one year ago, Rep. Kenneth Fredette sponsored an amendment posed as a “right to hunt” bill. I wrote about this back then explaining the amendment was incomplete. A right to hunt, trap and fish has no validity when it is not mandated by the same law that fish and game managers are required to manage game populations for surplus harvest. I’ve seen this in other states. With no legislative mandate to provide surplus harvest, wildlife agencies simply are managing their wildlife in numbers too low that any kind of harvest would be detrimental to the species. Because fish and game departments are often operating under “Post-Normal” management practices, they don’t want to see hunting, trapping and fishing.

Maine needs an amendment with teeth aimed at guaranteeing the PEOPLE not the special interest groups.

An amendment is not a sure way to stop referendums and lawsuits but it certainly does a lot to limit and discourage those who hate the rest of us.

Maine cannot afford to continue the same approach as before by always running scared fearing another lawsuit or another referendum. We have seen there has been no end to the lawsuits and no end to referendums. The approach has to be positive and with strength, presenting a management plan that sends the message that Maine will manage wildlife for all and that surplus harvest is the proven and desired method of population control, i.e. the North American Model. We have to let everyone know we are proud of our history in wildlife management and that we will do what we know is right. Lawsuits and referendums will continue but if Maine can show strength and strength in numbers perhaps outsiders will be a bit more discouraged to waste money trying to stop us.

This show of strength must begin in the governor’s office, as it did when Governor LePage got out front on the latest referendum opposing it. This must be done by the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife commissioner following the lead of the governor.

To continue on with business as usual will not get the job done. Yes, Maine won another round, but when you consider the costs and resources to fight this effort, doesn’t it make sense to thwart it with strength and a strong message before any more lawsuits and referendums appear?

Congratulations to everyone who fought the fight against the radicals at HSUS, et. al. Let’s not get comfortable in our victory just yet. There is more work to be done; work that will make life in Maine the way it should be and provide all of us with more and better time to spend in the outdoors and not debating the rights and wrongs of outdoor sports. Now is the time while all this is fresh in our minds.

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