October 22, 2017

Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine Pushing Three Bills This Session

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I have heard that the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) is pushing for support of three bills being presented before the Maine Legislature, that are described as in support and protection of hunting, fishing and trapping, changing the way signatures are gathered for public referendum items, and banning public referendum on wildlife issues. Let me address them one at a time.

First, there appears to be another attempt to somehow, through the Legislature, “protect the right to hunt.” I have not seen the language, which, to me, is of utmost importance. It is mostly a waste of time to support any law or constitutional amendment that does not go far enough to protect a right to hunt, fish and trap. What most don’t see is that what has been mostly presented so far, and this is true in several states that have already passed some kind of law to protect hunting, fishing and trapping, is that there is a difference between protecting a right for the opportunity to hunt, fish and trap, and the actual right to hunt, fish and trap. “Opportunities,” as the word is almost always wiggled into any attempt at fake protection of hunting, fishing and trapping, can take on many disguises, some of which one has to use their imagination to see any protection at all.

As things stand currently in Maine, most sportsmen are presented with “opportunities” to hunt, fish and trap. Would outdoor sportsmen be just as happy, years down the road, if those “opportunities” shrank to little or no chance to hunt, fish or trap? Any law passed worded with “provide opportunities” would only require the absolute minimum in order to fulfill the mandate. Thought must be given this matter.

What I have been witness to in other states that include only “opportunities” is that they can tell someone at what percentage the voters passed or rejected the law. Other than that, it really has no teeth, but might possibly discourage some under-funded environmentalist group from suing…but don’t hold your breath.

On the other hand, any law or constitutional amendment MUST provide a mandate, that whoever is in control of game management, must manage all game species “for surplus harvest.” I’m not stupid and I understand this is language fish and game departments, as well as slimy politicians, don’t want to see in any law or amendment. They hate placing mandates on themselves. It cramps their style. However, the only way that the actual act of hunting, trapping and fishing can be guaranteed is by including a mandate that the department must manage the game species for surplus harvest, otherwise what’s the point of it all? That would certainly take care of protecting opportunities.

I would fully support an amendment that contains the appropriate language. I wouldn’t oppose a useless amendment for protecting “opportunities,” but I would spend any time supporting it.

A second issue involves some kind of law that would require a different structure for gathering signatures in order to place a proposal on the ballot as a public referendum. Once again, I have not seen the language, but would support a change that would more equitably provide signatures that most closely represents the voting public. Maine has a wide disparaging population that goes hand in hand with political idealism. It appears that it becomes a bit too easy for someone to focus signature gathering on the most densely populated areas of Southern Maine, where residents there more closely resemble citizens of Massachusetts than the northern two-thirds of the Pine Tree State. I don’t think such a change would actually change anything, except that it might discourage fence sitters with little or no money from exercising their right to petition the government. This is something to consider.

Voters should think sufficiently on this issue before tossing support or opposition. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. In other words, for those seeking signatures that would more easily be targeted in northern and rural Maine, an equal number, or a more representative number of signatures, must be gathered from both regions – the door swings both ways.

And speaking of a goose and a gander, this brings me to the third item up for discussion. For the third time I remind readers I have not seen the exact language of the proposed legislation. It is my understanding that a proposal is being promoted by SAM that would prohibit public referendum items that involve “wildlife issues.”

Who is going to decide what is a “wildlife issue” to be accepted or rejected? What could possibly go wrong?

It appears to me that those in support of such a prohibition are making the assumption that they will always be in agreement with how the state, and in particular the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), manages game and wildlife. Do you have the confidence that the MDIFW will always be doing what you consider the right thing? What will happen then, if MDIFW decides that it will shift all its funds and employees to protecting piping plovers, allowing the deer herd to go to hell in a hand-basket? You try and try and try to get them to better balance their work. Even SAM has mounted a campaign to deal with issues that are important to its members, but there is no changing their minds. What then? What’s left? Presently, you could gather signatures and mount a referendum campaign for the upcoming ballot to force the changes you seek. With a ban on “wildlife issues” on referendums, this right to petition the state is gone.

It always amazes me to witness, so-called, supporters of rights, who turn around and use their right to take away a right they claim they support.

It sucks that we live in a democracy, where two wolves and a sheep can decide what’s for lunch, but it is the system that we have and our rights need to be protected in order that we can have some kind of recourse when government gets too big and out of control. I have zero faith that Maine’s government, or any other government, gives three pieces of camel dung about me and what I think is important. As I witness the changes taking place within fish and game departments, more closely resembling environmental activism, this right to petition the state on wildlife issues must remain in place.

I would NOT support a ban on referendums that involve “wildlife issues” regardless of what the definition is of “wildlife issues.”

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