August 16, 2018

Land Swap Proposal to Increase Baxter State Park

Rex Turner, who writes columns for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel and who is a member of Friends of Baxter State Park, has a piece today in the Morning Sentinel about the upcoming discussions concerning the land swap proposal that would add Katahdin Lake and about 6000 more acres to Baxter State Park.

While I am not opposed to adding 6000 acres to Baxter to further complete Governor Baxter’s dream, I am opposed to the manner in which it is being done. Turner begins his piece by stating that publicly owned land in Maine accounts for a meager 5% of the total land mass and he points out this is one of the lowest in the country.

Without getting too specific, the deal would take some of Maine public land and some private land and give it over to Gardner Land Co., owners of the Baxter Lake parcel, in exchange.

The problem with this concept is the loss of public land. This is not a clean exchange of land use for land use. The public land would fall back into the ownership of Gardner Land Co. and the 6000 acres adjacent to Baxter would become part of the Park and closed to many outdoor activities – hunting, trapping, snowmobiling, ATVs, motorized boats and logging operations.

Maine lags in much of the nation in providing public lands for recreation. Giving up a portion of this for the purpose of fulfilling one man’s dream might not be in the best interest of the citizens of Maine. As Turner says, they will soon decide.

I would like to see the proposal changed to include a commitment by the Maine Legislature to appropriate the necessary money to purchase enough public land to replace what is being lost to the Baxter land swap.

In Turner’s article he asks the question: “Is a 6,000-acre addition to Maine’s most iconic north woods park, managed per Gov. Baxter’s sanctuary principle, too much of a threat or loss to the hunting and snowmobiling community?”

To be able to answer that question, one needs to look at the entire picture which includes the future. I have pointed out several times already that Maine is lacking in providing public lands. This will come back to haunt the citizens in this state if this isn’t rectified soon. Our shrinking availability to land for recreation is dwindling every day. Taking away public land for the enlargement of Baxter Park the way it is proposed, is wrong.

Maine needs a bill that at least says that whatever dealings the state makes when bartering public lands, the result is a zero net loss. This proposal results in a loss of public lands. Today, the loss of that public land may not appear that great but look down the road. Even with the programs in place in Maine to purchase public lands, it is not happening at a fast enough pace.

I would suppose that I could ask a similar question to that of Mr. Turner. Is adding 6000 acres at the expense of losing the equivalent in public land too much of a threat or loss to Baxter State Park?

Time will tell. As stated by Mr. Turner, because the deal involves public land, the Maine Legislature would need to approve the swap by a 2/3 majority vote. I would encourage all Maine residents to contact their Representatives and tell them how you feel. In the meantime, would somebody please rewrite the proposal so that Maine would agree to purchase 6000 acres of more public land in exchange for what we will be losing?

That would let us all know that Maine citizens care not only about Baxter State Park but also the need for public lands.

Tom Remington


Bill To Require Maine Guides To Have Criminal Background Checks Dead

A draft proposal that would require registered Maine guides to get criminal background checks before being issued a license, has been scrapped for now. The Maine Guides Association was in opposition to the proposal as it was written.

There were parts of the proposal that were too strict and it didn’t include all forms of guide services, namely white water rafting guides and camping guides.

Although this bill is over, many still think this proposal needs to be rewritten and the Maine Guides Association is willing to sit down with the necessary and right people to  work up a plan that will work for everyone.

Tom Remington


One Tiny Town In Maine Uses Tax Dollars to Feed Deer

Lincoln Plantation, Maine also known to locals as Wilsons Mills, this year voted to appropriated $8,000 to feed deer. With a bustling population of 46, that’s about $174 a head. Yeah, that’s right. They decide how much they think it is going to cost each year and they vote it in at the annual town meeting. It is said that the tax payers will squabble over $100 for a culvert but when it comes to feeding the deer, they’re all in.
Despite what the residents there have heard about the dangers of feeding deer, they disagree and frankly, I don’t think they give a dam either. They say they see the same deer coming back year after year, so you can’t convince them that feeding the deer will cause harm. You can read the blog I wrote this morning about the dangers of feeding deer.

Residents of Lincoln Plantation have been feeding the deer during the winter months as far back as the 1950s and 1960s. Residents say they have watched as logging operations, spruce bud worm and severe weather has wrecked havoc with the deer habitat and so they have stepped up their efforts to keep the deer fed.

They are careful with what they feed the deer and consistent as well. They keep the feeding stations away from roads and spread it out over several different areas.

Even some of the local game wardens think that the feeding has gone on so long now, if they stopped, half the deer might just die off within the first year.

Tom Remington


Sportsman's Alliance of Maine Gets Funding For New Building Project

It wasn’t that long ago that Maine was in the midst of a costly battle to retain bear hunting as it is known throughout the state. Animal rights groups and anti-hunting groups spearheaded a campaign to rid the state of bear hunting. That referendum was defeated.

Not long after the dust had begun to settle, George Smith, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine announced that SAM wanted to build a large addition to its Augusta headquarters. The addition would comprise a conference center including large and small conference rooms, a library and board room, office space and a kitchen.

The fear was that funding would be difficult to come by as many groups, individuals and businesses had spent tons of money fighting the bear referendum.

Now, that doesn’t seem to be the case as funding is renewed and pledges are coming in. L.L. Beans in Freeport has put up $120,000 bringing the total pledged to about $400,000. The building should cost around $700,000 to build but the ultimate goal is $1,050,000 which would include an endowment fund for management and maintenance.

There are those who are opposed to this much money being spent for an addition to the headquarters. They believe the money could be better spent on other needy projects.

Tom Remington


Not Everyone Happy About Baxter Land Swap

Gardiner Land Co. is proposing selling roughly 6,000 arcres of land adjacent to Baxter State Park. This land parcel includes Katahdin Lake. Gardiner has agreed to a land swap with the state and the entire process to make this endeavor come about is complicated and potentially disastrous, in my opinion.

When the 6,000 acres is acquired, it will be given as a gift to the Baxter Park Authority and herein lies one of the problems. The 6,000 acres will be treated like the rest of Baxter State Park – closed to hunting, trapping, timber harvesting, snowmobiling, ATV use, etc.

This is a large chunk of real estate to be taken away from neighboring towns and businesses that rely upon the woods for their livelyhood. Part of the deal would transfer lands back to Gardiner Land Co. but some of that land transfer is public lands. This would now take a large peace of land, open to the public, and put it in the hands of private business. There would be no guarantees that this land would remain open to public access or that Gardiner would even continue to own it. Essentially, the possibility is quite realistic that Maine would stand to lose 6,000 acres of public lands also losing access to hunting, fishing, hiking, snowmobiling, etc.

The land adjacent to the Park that encompasses Katahdin Lake is a parcel that many fear would be prime land for development. This may be so and I would not like to see condominiums being built next to Baxter State Park but I feel that the risk to that happening as compared to the impact to local towns and the loss of land to recreation, does not justify the need for this land swap/purchase.

Unless someone can show me something that I am missing in this deal, which seems to me to smell and awful lot like land grabbing for the purpose of closing the land to the public, my stand is in opposition to this deal.

This link will take you to the blog I did at Blogging the Outdoors, announcing the proposal. From there you will find a link that fully explains how the exchange will take place.

Tom Remington


Maine to Convene Turkey Group in Aroostook County

Roland D. Martin, Commission of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, will create a stakeholders group that will work with the Department to develop a plan for the continued release of wild turkeys into southern Aroostook County.

The duties of this group will be to focus on the continued release of the turkeys and how to deal with nuisance problems from turkeys. The group will be comprised of representatives from the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Maine Potato Board, Aroostook County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Maine Farm Bureau, the dairy industry, the Department of Agriculture and the Deparment of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologists.

It will be the responsibility of this group to develop a plan on future turkey releases, how to notify landowners about turkey releases, a protocol for response to turkey issues with local farmers, and develop a stategy that will monitor and deal with turkey issues.

This group will be formed as the result of a meeting last week when it became apparent that all parties were willing to work together to deal with and resolve turkey issues.

There is more information in our news section.

Tom Remington


Marketing Maine's Outdoor Economy – Once Again

George Smith, Executive Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, is once again preaching his message to Mainers about the need to market the resources of hunting and fishing in Maine. He says that Maine is striving for mediocrity and missing the boat when it comes to strengthing the economy. *previous story about marketing Maine’s outdoors*
In an article that appears this morning in the Morning Sentinel, Smith lays out economic facts and figures and compares trends in Maine with other states with comparable marketability. Let’s look at figures he presents from a study done 10 years ago. *this link will take you to that study done in 1999*

Ten years ago, a University of Maine study reported that hunting, fishing and wildlife watching produced nearly $1.5 billion in economic output, supported 17,680 jobs and generated $67.7 million in state income and sales taxes — in addition to revenue from hunting and fishing licenses. This was almost 5 percent of the Maine economy at the time.

Smith goes on to declare the opportunities that exist in Maine for the hunter – turkey, deer, bear, waterfowl, grouse, moose, etc., but says that Maine is missing out on the opportunity to take advantage of a nationwide trend that shows a growing hunting economy.

Unfortunately, despite these opportunities, Maine is not participating in the national growth in the hunting economy.

He then tells of how Maine, unlike other states, has seen a steady decline in the sale of hunting and fishing licenses to Maine residence, since 1992. For non-residence, fishing licenses have declined and hunting held steady since 1992.

We do almost no marketing of hunting and fishing in Maine. We invest almost nothing in the resources that deliver our outdoor economy.

Here is a good comparison: Colorado stocks about 60 million fish each year, including 14 million catchable-size rainbow trout. Maine stocks about 1.5 million fish. Where would you go if you had limited time and really wanted to catch fish?

Smith makes some other comparisons which seem to make sense but then, from my perspective, he hits the nail squarely on the head. I have spouted off about this same aspect of Maine’s faultering tourism business. Let’s face it, the truth is Maine’s tourism industry depends heavily on hunting, fishing and wildlife watching. No one can dispute that. Here’s what Smith said.

But this state does not get it. At the invitation of the owner, my wife and I visited an Alaskan lodge two years ago — to fish for silver salmon and rainbow trout. The lodge charges $6,500 a week per person and gets it because they have gorgeous rivers full of really big fish. No place in Maine can command that kind of money — but we have equally magnificent rivers. We just do not have the big fish because we manage for mediocrity.

What I would have to add to Smith’s analogy is that Maine has managed for mediocrity for far too long in more areas than just marketing its outdoor resources. Maine does not fully understand the marketing potential of their outdoors because they are not aware of the rest of the world or doesn’t want to be a part of it. I think the proper term to describe much of what it does is called provencial. Maine is quite isolated from the rest of the United States and often times prides itself on being that way. They don’t want anyone else to share in their experience.

The choice is really that of the Maine people. I agree with George Smith that there is an opportunity that sits ripe on the tree for the picking if Maine people want it. If they do, there is a lot of work to be done but as the saying goes, you got to start somewhere. If Mainers choose to remain status quo, then that’s the way it will be and we will all continue to struggle, always trying to find an extra penny here and an exra penny there.

Smith tells of seeing a bumper sticker on a car in Augusta the other day that read, “If this is the tourist season, why can’t we shoot them?” Having been actively involved in Maine’s tourism and hospitality business for several years, I can assure you I have seen many bumper stickers emitting the same message and heard more than my share of comments about those who contribute huge sums of dollars to Maine’s economy each year. Do Maine’s residents fully understand and appreciate what this does for them?
Often times these bumper stickers are good for a laugh and we can’t lose our sense of humor but from my experiences, I have seen and heard enough to know that it is not all fun and games.

Smith finishes his article with the following that I believe pretty much sums up my feelings as well as his thoughts.

Maine has a traditional outdoor economy that relies on resources that have been served and neglected by conservation agencies that have been underfunded.

That outdoor economy is being lost to competition that understands that a combination of natural-resource investments and good marketing can deliver big bucks to their economies.

Tom Remington


Buy a License – Win a Truck

Game Wardens Truck

If you purchase you Maine hunting and/or fishing license from a MOSES agent or do it online, you will be automatically signed up to win for a chance to win this 1957 Dodge Classic Wardens Truck. More information here.

Tom Remington

Update: I changed the wording to read “for a chance to win”. As dumb as it may sound, I didn’t want anyone thinking that by simply buying a license they would win the truck – Sorry!


Hunting Hare in Maine in the Dead of Winter

Even though Maine hasn’t of yet seen a “dead of winter”, hunting the snowshoe hare is still a good bet. Ken Bailey, outdoor writer for the Village Soup, has a fantastic article he did on a recent hare hunt with a couple of buddies into northern Maine.

Loaded up with shotguns, ammunition, lunch and their beagle dogs, they head out for a day in the woods rabbit hunting. If you’ve never been on a rabbit hunt in winter with beagles or used to and haven’t in a while, you’ll want to read this story.

Tom Remington


Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Meetings

The following meetings are scheduled for this coming Thursday, January 26, 2006

Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (287-1338)

1:00 PM Room 206, Cross State Office Building

L.D. 1813    An Act To Allow Smelt Dipping in Long Lake in Aroostook County (Sponsor: Rep. SMITH of Van Buren)

L.D. 1896    An Act To Make License Requirements and Rules Consistent for Young Anglers (Sponsor: Rep. BRYANT of Windham) (DEPARTMENT BILL) (Submitted by Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife)

L.D. 1819    An Act To Protect Volunteer-earned Funds of the Maine Wildlife Park (Sponsor: Rep. AUSTIN of Gray)

L.D. 1877    An Act To Protect the Water Quality of Colcord Pond and Bickford Pond in Porter (Sponsor: Rep. MUSE of Fryeburg)